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

Design is Downtown

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

The exhibit itself features avante garde furniture from designers such as Moroso and USM & Moooi, to name 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 individual styles and the creative history of designers whose furniture are on show. In the future, the public will also have a chance to engage with representatives of 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 on the installation. Proceeds from the sale of the crystals will go to Education Above All Foundation.

DDD Manager Shaikha Al Sulaiti 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.

She said that right now, there is no luxury furniture training in Doha by renowned designers and architects. And that is something they at DDD, hope to pioneer, as they move into the offering and operations side of the Design District.

Through these initiatives, Al Sulaiti said that 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.

Creative story

Design is Downtown is a creative story that draws on and celebrates styles, functions and social interactions, says Almana Maples General Manager Emad Shoubaki. The exhibition presents contemporary and design-forward pieces that highlight emerging talented international designers and architects.

From the late nineteenth 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.

DDD is located at Sikkat Al Wadi street in MDD, the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. The street is a pedestrian walkway for regular outdoor events and installations that reflect the vibrancy of DDD initiatives and its growing community of creatives. The M7 building, an incubation centre by Qatar Museums, is located within MDD and is just a few minutes walk from DDD.

For more information about the art programmes at VCUarts Qatar, visit qatar.vcu.edu

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