01 April 2021

A Design Exhibition With a Difference

A display organized by two VCUarts Qatar alumni promises to both inspire – and educate – the public

When it comes to exhibitions, residents of Qatar are spoiled for choice. But Doha Design District (DDD)– a design hub launched by two VCUarts Qatar alumni Shaikha Al Sulaiti and Naila Al Thani – brings the public an exhibition of a different sort.

The exhibition titled ‘Design is Downtown’ – a collaboration between DDD and Almana Maples, a well-respected and trusted retailer of branded furniture labels in Qatar for more than 30 years – is on display from March 17, for three weeks, in a pop up location on Sikkat AlWadi in Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD), and offers visitors a more educative experience where they can learn more about the designs, and the designers, of the pieces of furniture on display.

The exhibit itself features avante garde furniture from designers including Moroso, USM, and Moooi, to name but a few. Each piece of furniture has a QR code which visitors can scan to access the details of the design and the designers. 

In addition, a Wall of Fame within the exhibition space displays information on the individual styles and creative history of the designers whose furniture are on show. In the future, the public will also have a chance to engage with the representatives of globally renowned furniture designers through lectures and workshops.

The pedestrian area leading to the exhibition features activations that include an outdoor light installation by iGuzzini, in the form of lighting projections; and Preciosa with Crystallation, an interactive installation inviting visitors to purchase and hang crystals anywhere on the installation. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the Education Above All foundation.

Shaikha Al Sulaiti, Manager of DDD, and Interior Design Manager at Msheireb Properties, explained how the exhibition – with its added focus on education – is in a sense, pioneering.

“The scope of DDD, and this exhibition, is not confined to retail or partnerships, or a display of eye-catching designs; education is another important segment,” the Interior Design graduate said. “Right now, there is no luxury furniture training in Doha by internationally renowned designers/architects. And that’s something we, at DDD, hope to pioneer as we move into the offering and operations side of the Design District.

“Through these initiatives, DDD hopes to make design accessible to the general public while educating them on why design is the way it is. For example, through our workshops, visitors will learn about luxury brands, why they’re priced a certain way, the sustainable practices and the manufacturing processes behind them, and the quality of material that justify the price, and so on.”

In the long run, DDD plans to conduct design competitions for the wider community, where participants will get to create designs that will in turn be developed into finished products.

"'Design is Downtown' is a creative story that draws on and celebrates styles, functions, and social interactions,” said Emad Shoubaki, General Manager, Almana Maples. “The exhibition, organized by Almana Maples in collaboration with Doha Design District, presents contemporary and design-forward pieces that highlight emerging talented international designers and architects.

"From the late 19th century through to the present, Modernism has had a major influence in the furniture industry with the practicality of materials in design influencing the aesthetics of the furniture; in other words, it is the opposite to decorative furniture where aesthetics takes precedence over utility. The selected designers and architects have a robust background and reputation in blending traditional manufacturing processes with new technologies and are considered to be trendsetters of the Modern Furniture industry,” Shoubaki added.

As one of the significant emerging hubs for designers, DDD is located at Sikkat AlWadi street, in MDD, the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. The street is a pedestrian walkway where regular outdoor events and installations reflect the vibrancy of DDD’s initiatives, and its growing community of creatives. Moreover, the M7 building, an incubation center by Qatar Museums, is located within MDD and is just a few mins walk from DDD.

'Design is Downtown' an exhibition organized by Naila Al Thani (L) and Shaikha Al Sulaiti (R) from Doha Design District, hopes to make design accessible to the general the public. Photograph by Raviv Cohen.

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