Design Doha Prize: A Platform for Innovative Design in the MENA Region

Design Doha Prize: A Platform for Innovative Design in the MENA Region

Last Monday I got on a Berlin to Doha flight, a usual route given how Qatar has positioned itself as an effective hub connecting east and west. But this time Doha was not the connection, it was the destination.

A series of recent projects showcase the direction that the emirate is building towards, based on its heritage and the richness of its desert and coast, while focusing on culture and education, aiming for a sustainable development model. Again, its status as a hub facilitates global events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup or the 2023 Doha Horticultural Expo. All of this has led to a growing number of remarkable architectural projects in the country that I was eager to explore, from the National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel, the Museum of Islamic Art by I.M. Pei, the Qatar National Library by OMA, or the Msheireb Downtown District by Allies and Morrison, AECOM and Arup, a compact walkable district that set an example for urban development in the region.

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But perhaps what I was more eager to witness was the strong new generation of young architects and designers across the Middle East and North Africa, who are in the process of defining the character of contemporary design in the region. A growing number of remarkable events such as the Sharjah Triennial, the Islamics Arts Biennial, and now Design Doha are a consequence of such growing talent and cultural production, and are becoming an effective platform to reunite, recognize and amplify the unique work of this generation.


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So on the occasion of Design Doha, open to the public until August 5th 2024, I had the honor to participate in the jury of the inaugural Design Doha Prize, which looks to recognize and support the work of designers from the MENA region focusing in product design, interior design, furniture design and craft.

Together with juries Tosin Oshinowo (Sharjah Architecture Triennial Curator), Sheikha Duaij Al-Jaber Al-Saba, Sir David Chipperfield, Woody Yao (Zaha Hadid Design), Rafal Niemojewski (Biennial Foundation), David Alhadeff (The Future Perfect), Gabriele Cavallaro (Isola Design District), Michael Rock (2×4), Karim Rashid, Aziza Chaouni, Talib Choudhry (AD Middle East), Alia Rachid, Ahmed Elfangary, Ashraf Abu Issa, Ibrahim Jaidah and Wissam Al Manna, we had the opportunity to interact with the 20 finalists that presented their work at the M7 Cultural Forum, selected from more than 500 submissions.

The winners displayed a master of their field, along with unique designs that are rooted in the culture of their countries, showcasing material and visual culture expression, environmental and innovative use of materials, and considerations of technique, detail, pattern, and aesthetics. 

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Take Abeer Seikaly, based in Jordan and winner of the Crafts category, whose work is connected with the ancient weaving techniques, and is not only supporting local communities, but also producing innovations that can take these artisanal techniques into larger scale works.

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FADAA, based in Jordan and winners of the Interiors category, showcased their material research that turns the waste of oysters shell into a cement aggregate, applied on the bricks used for the Decoration One interiors in Aqaba, a true innovation in material technology.

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From Lebanon, winner of the Product category Fabraca Studios explores innovative industrialized lighting possibilities, with a result that is forward looking and with potential to grow into an industry. Also based in Lebanon, the Furniture category winners Sayar & Garibeh put together craft and fun designs for a collection with unique identity.

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Under the Umbrella of Qatar Museums, led by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Design Doha and the Prize display the long term commitment to culture in Qatar, and the importance of providing access to opportunities to a new generation that has been formed during globalization but that has a profound connection to the heritage and values of the ancient cultures it comes from. The future relays in the young, and Design Doha places the right bet.

“The Design Doha Prize represents a significant step towards acknowledging and empowering talent in the Middle East and North Africa […] Design excellence in the MENA region is nothing new, but being able to celebrate the accomplished and inventive designers who are based here through Design Doha further elevates and supports designers and our creative industries”
– Fahad Al Obaidly, Deputy Director of Programming and Partnerships, Design Doha.

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This richness can be seen across the different exhibits of Design Doha, and specially at its central exhibit Arab Design Now at the M7 Cultural Forum. Curated by Rana Beiruti, it is a comprehensive survey of the state of art, design and architecture in the region, showcasing more than 70 Arab designers and featuring 38 commissioned works.

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