A Fusion of History and Innovation
Dubai is renowned for its striking skyline and awe-inspiring architecture, but a new installation is making waves by embracing sustainable innovation on a smaller scale. Architect Ahmad Alkattan has created "Designest," a unique cocoon-style outdoor social space that provides both shade and seating for humans, while also offering shelter for pigeons. The design draws inspiration from the historical significance of pigeon towers in the Arabian Peninsula.
A Tribute to Pigeon Towers
Pigeon towers, historically built with beautiful arches and intricate engravings, served a dual purpose in the Arabian Peninsula. They protected pigeons during harsh weather conditions and collected their feces for use as fertilizer. These towers also showcased the wealth of their owners. Alkattan's "Designest" pays homage to this historical tradition.
A Haven for Humans and Birds
"Designest" features pigeon nests at the top of its elegant oblong structure, while three arched entrances at the bottom welcome human visitors. The sections for humans and pigeons are thoughtfully separated. Importantly, the bird feces collected from the top section will be repurposed as fertilizer for plants in Dubai's Design District, ensuring a sustainable cycle within the installation.
An Award-Winning Design
Alkattan's compelling design for "Designest" earned him first place in the Urban Commissions competition, a coveted accolade within the annual Dubai Design Week. This competition, organized by design firm TEE VEE EFF, invites innovative designers to showcase their talents. Alkattan's triumph highlights the unique merging of historical inspiration and contemporary sustainability.
Creating a Sustainable Legacy
Dubai Design Week serves as a platform for architects and designers to embrace sustainability as they develop innovative installations. Alkattan notes, "Being environmentally responsible with your design from the very early stages is no longer a niche; it's a necessity." With this in mind, "Designest" was originally envisioned to be 3D-printed using recycled glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). However, the prototypes built for Dubai Design Week utilize a combination of eco-friendly methods and materials, including a plant-based plastic alternative blended with wood powder and 3D-printing with sand.
A Shift towards Sustainable Practices
The theme of this year's Dubai Design Week underscores the importance of sustainable practices and materials, coinciding with the upcoming COP28 climate conference to be hosted in Dubai. Mette Degn-Christensen, director of DDW's flagship design fair Downtown Design, explains that sustainability plays a crucial role in the event's design criteria. The aim is to create designs that are not only visually appealing but also environmentally conscious and scalable.
A New Perspective on Design
Alkattan's passion for non-human-centric design shines through in his creation of "Designest." By considering all potential users of an outdoor structure, including the pigeon population, he offers a fresh perspective on design. Alkattan believes that pushing the boundaries of what is possible is best achieved through competitions, which allow designers to freely express their ideas without the constraints usually imposed by clients and cost considerations. In its ninth year, Dubai Design Week continues to showcase the region's ingenuity and creative expression through workshops, installations, exhibitions, and talks. This year alone, more than 30 unique designs have been brought to life in Dubai's Design District, captivating visitors with their blend of history, sustainability, and innovation. So, if you're ever in Dubai, don't miss the opportunity to experience "Designest" – a remarkable fusion of history, sustainability, and architectural vision, providing shade, shelter, and inspiration for humans and pigeons alike.