2016: Year in Review

From Pantone releasing a dual ‘Colour of the Year’ and Dubai announcing yet another ‘tallest building’ on Dubai Creek harbour to the death of Indian starchitect Charles Correa and Mexican architects delivering their verdict on Trumpism by creatively visualising his insidious Mexican Border Wall, 2016 was an interesting year for Design.

In a year that had us questioning, above all else, our humanity, Design shone bright as a beacon of the virtues of collaboration, the beauty in diversity and the power of thinking outside the box.

Death of a Dame

Zaha Hadid passed away in Miami on March 31, 2016

Zaha Hadid, Goddess of all things sinuous and creator of the future passed away unexpectedly in March 2016. An inconsolable design community found strength in the host of up and coming projects that will see Zaha Hadid Architects further strengthen their founder’s unique vision. Meanwhile in November, Patrik Schumacher, Director of the practice and master of controversial sound-bytes went too far; even by his own standards. During a keynote speech at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin, Schumacher presented a solution to London’s housing crisis. His recommendations that involved getting rid of regulations, privatising all public space and scrapping social housing saw the most avid of Zaha supporters and confidantes distance themselves from the man. Rana Hadid, Peter Palumbo and Brian Clarke – trustees of the Zaha Hadid Foundation, and executors of Hadid’s estate vocally disagreed with Schumacher’s views, even saying Hadid herself would have blocked the speech.

On a positive note, ZHA opened doors to its new Dubai office in d3 and in additional to The Opus project that is close to opening date, site works have begun for the path breaking Bee’ah Headquarters in Sharjah.

Brexit and the fate of Design

Architect and illustrator Andrea Angeli expresses sadness on the vote to leave

The global design community was left reeling by the results of the referendum, in which the UK voted to leave the European Union. “What a nightmare,” said Roger Hawkins, co-founder of architecture firm Hawkins\Brown. “It has generated the worst in some people and the best in very few.”

Design sector is a huge asset to the UK both culturally and economically. It is the fastest-growing part of the UK’s creative industries, generating over £71.7 billion in goods and services a year and employing more than 1.5 million people. Turning its back to the EU, UK risks slowing down its creative industries, rendering the nation’s vibrant design heritage a tad dull and most importantly, making London less of a global hub for design business.

After Brexit, the UK will no longer be qualified to avail Erasmus— the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students—a program that funds internships and apprenticeships for students. Not only does this limit the options for UK’s own design students, it also curtails the influx of new energy, new ideas and indeed, future design stars that the EU was contributing. Collapse of free-trade and free-travel will hinder not only movement of talent and resources but also finished products and services, in turn impacting the rosy future of the UK’s design economy, which between 2009 and 2013 grew by 28% compared to 18.1% across the UK economy as a whole.

A New Home for Design

The Design Museum opened to public at its new home in November

The Design Museum found itself a new home at the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington. Working with the London firm Allies and Morrison, and Arup engineers, Dutch architecture practice OMA restored the shell of the 1960s Grade II-listed building in west London, reviving its distinctive copper-covered, hyperbolic paraboloid roof to spectacular results.

Two basement levels were excavated below the footprint of the original 1960s building, increasing its floor plan from 6,000 square metres to 10,000 square metres – triple the space available at the museum’s former Shad Thames location in southeast London. Architect John Pawson was entrusted with re-visiting the building’s interiors. A minimal oak and marble lined atrium – its scale belies its humble materiality – has galleries arranged around it. Flanked by tall balustrades, the flights of wooden steps double as impromptu seating. By integrating hanging rails into the wood-lined walkways surrounding the atrium, Pawson gave the museum the opportunity to use the circulation space as an extra exhibition area.

For the Museum’s opening exhibition, Fear and Love, Justin McGuirk curated 11 installations by 11 different architects and designers, including Hussein Chalayan, Neri Oxman, Amsterdam graphic designers Metahaven and Dutch product designer Christien Meindertsma who chose to explore the potential of recycling textiles with a rainbow-hued installation made up of piles of fibres taken from 1,000 discarded woollen jumpers.

The launch of DIDI

DIDI is scheduled for the first in-take of students in Fall 2018

During Dubai Design Week, TECOM Group and Dubai Creative Clusters Authority announced the establishment of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI). Set to be a private, non-profit educational institution accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education, DIDI will bring to Dubai world-class lecturers and facilities, thus providing students access to the highest international standards of design education.

DIDI has entered into strategic collaborations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The New School’s Parsons School of Design (Parsons) to develop a curriculum that is designed to empower students to map out their own four-year educational journey. The DIDI curriculum will be studio-centric and provide a hands-on approach for its courses, rather than a modular design approach.

Students will not just learn to think in the language of design – they will be creators in the studio, applying their knowledge and skills at the same time to develop their designs. DIDI offers the region’s first Bachelor of Design degree with cross concentrations in Product Design, Strategic Design Management, Visual Arts, Media and Fashion Design. Located in d3, the campus is designed by Foster + Partners.

The Rise and Rise of BIG

A rendering by BIG showing the Hyperloop terminal in Abu Dhabi

Be it their design for the Serpentine Gallery’s pavilion which looked like a wall of bricks had been “unzipped” or winning the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for a pink rubberized meeting hub in Denmark’s most diverse neighbourhood, it seemed, in 2016 Danish architect Bjarke Bundgaard Ingels and his studio BIG could do no wrong.

Over the past few years, the studio has been garnering international repute, thwarting competition and delivering one avant-garde project after another. 2016 saw them conquer America, announcing big-money projects across LA, Miami and New York City. In November Ingels travel to Dubai to deliver the Hyperloop dream. The futuristic transportation system when operational (Hyperloop One has just signed a deal with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to conduct research into how the high-speed route might work) will cut commute time between Dubai and the capital to 12 minutes. BIG closed 2016 announcing it had been appointed to help build a new brand identity for the five countries that make up the Nordic region.

Note: This story was originally written by our editor, Pratyush Sarup for Gulf News tabloid!

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