Cairo Now! A City Incomplete captures for the first time under one roof the Egyptian capital’s current design landscape and celebrates innovation and emerging talent in the fields of product, furniture, graphic and typeface design as well as architecture.
Curated by Cairo-based architect, independent researcher and writer Mohamed Elshahed, Over 65 Egyptian architects, designers, entrepreneurs and graphic artists will contribute to a presentation, inspired by the city’s infamous red brick housing stock that appears in varying stages of completion across the capital.
The theme of incompleteness is a reflection of the city’s status quo: its disjointed transport system, partially restored historic buildings, expansion into the desert with partly realized satellite cities, speculative urbanism where buildings are never fully completed to avoid taxation, and the tendency to leave concrete sticking out of roofs in the hope of adding additional floors in the future. This theme is extended to the unrealized potential of the city’s current generation of designers.
In addition to the exhibition, Mohamed Elshahed is Curator for the British Museum’s Modern Egypt Project, founder of local architecture and urbanism blog Cairobserver and eponymous magazine in 2011 and teacher of architectural history at the American University in Cairo. On the exhibition he said:
“Cairo Now! sheds light on the city's emerging designers who, despite the lack of a marketplace or an infrastructure supporting their practices, continue to innovate, to turn the city’s trash into new products and revive fading traditions with a contemporary edge. They always take Cairo with all its flaws as their muse and as the source of their creativity. The city’s zeitgeist is reflected in their often satirical take on the absurdities that make up contemporary Cairo. ”
Mohammad Saeed Al Shehhi, COO of Dubai Design District, strategic partners for Dubai Design Week commented: “Following the huge success of Beirut as Iconic City in 2015, it’s a great attribute to be able to discover and explore another great Middle Eastern city, Cairo. d3 has worked very closely with some of the pioneers of Cairo’s creative scene, not least jewellery designer Azza Fahmy, and so we are delighted that this year’s Iconic City will unveil more of what the city has to offer”.
The furniture selected for Cairo Now! references every era of Egyptian history. The Neo-Egypt Chair by Eman Sherif from NOSS Designs combines local craftsmanship, modern proportions and a design inspired by an ancient Egyptian mural. Alabaster, found extensively amongst pharaonic treasures, but nowadays associated with tacky tourist nick-nacks, is crafted into strikingly elegant coffee tables by Lina Al-Orabi.
The Muqarnas motif, common in Islamic architecture, has been re-interpreted by Abdallah Ragab from Ain Design Studio (aindesignstudioblog.wordpress.com) as a cantilevered Flying Cabinet inspired by the modern Danish console - it comes flatpacked and is constructed without adhesives, nails or screws. Block B Furniture has re-imagined the Louis Farouk armchair, icon of middle-class interiors, with plastic and cowhide upholstery and vivid colourways.
Pieces by Studio Meem reference contemporary Cairene life. Its Off the Gireed collection reinterprets the humble palm fiber crate used to transport chickens, fruit and vegetables. Ahwa Sada tables are inspired by institutional ‘ahwas’ (coffee houses), and the Supernatural-Deliciosa Table by the leaves of common houseplants.
Reform Studio showcases Plastex, a fabric that’s handmade from plastic bags and recycled cotton with two pieces from its Sixties-inspired Grammy’s Collection and two from its Chaotic Design Collection, which celebrates Egyptians’ ingenuity for upcycling broken street chairs.
Ain Bicycles epitomizes Egyptian innovation and resourcefulness. Brightly coloured, single-speed bikes are customized at a workshop that doubles as a cyclists’ community centre, with locally sourced frames and camel leather seats from a tannery near The Pyramids.
Encode Studio uses CAD and CAM computer software to create indoor and outdoor furniture inspired by traditional shipbuilding in Alexandria. Its elegant, modular Parallel wall cladding system mimics ripples on water and comes in ten different designs in wood or GRC (glass fiber reinforced cement).
Lighting presented at Cairo Now! ranges from the elegant (Salsabeel Amin’s marble and brass Ore collection and Ultra Design’s 3D Light), to the quirky (Mohamed Nabil Labib’s Lighting Wheel made from discarded bicycle parts and Dina Naguib’s recycled pipes and meat grinders).
The theme of upcycling continues with backpacks, totes, beach bags and passport holders
made from plastic bags by Up-fuse (www.up-fuse.com) and everyday objects painted in bright rainbow colours by Medhat Benzoher.
Apparel spans street fashion (Studio Zafir’s T-shirts emblazoned with slang, quotes and truck signage), to accessories (traditional shell-clad boxes transformed into handbags and clutches with bejeweled stone clasps by S.A.D.A.F.A.). Kojak Studio adds a touch of couture with a specially commissioned garment inspired by the view of Cairo from designer Mohanad Kojak’s Garden City studio. Online marketplace Tombokka (tomobokka.com) promotes T-shirts, totes and phone cases by local designers as well as cushions and clocks.
Traditional Egyptian craft is celebrated by distinctive ceramics from the Fayoum Pottery School; cement tiles from The Nile Company; clay cooking pots sporting contemporary glazes by Menn Baladha; and woolen rugs from social enterprise Kiliim. Nevin Altmann’s cushions, bags and shawls are embellished with traditional embroidery; Pheel produces handmade year planners; and Wael Azzam’s My Own People playing cards are illustrated with characters from Egyptian pop culture.
Cairo’s most ubiquitous construction material, the humble red brick, is re-interpreted as sculpture by artist Ibrahim Ahmed. Each unique piece has the appearance of hardness but challenges notions of perception and reality as every one is composed of around 100 layers of textiles from around the world, sourced from local markets. Nine photos of the bricks and an original piece will be included in the exhibition.
Original, interesting and versatile Arabic fonts are in woefully short supply in the design world. When Mohamed Gaber’s type foundry Kief launched Cairo, a new contemporary Arabic/Latin typescript, for free in the spring it was downloaded almost 14 million times. Cairo Now! curator Elshahed chose to use the font throughout the exhibition, and appointed Ahmad Hammoud, who designs his magazine Cairobserver, to produce the exhibition publication.
Maps by Transport for Cairo, Valerie Arif and Ghada Waly demonstrate how clever graphic design can rationalize the city’s chaotic street grid, complex bus system and metro lines, and a series of graphic posters showcase everything from political comment and art exhibitions to the preservation of fonts used on old shop signs in Downtown Cairo.
Branding is represented by logos for Cottonball (Islam Hassan) and The Nile Company (Habi Girgis) inspired by Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Salma Shamel’s identity for alternative film centre Cimatheque in Downtown Cairo. Digital artwork by Maged El Sokkary depicting cities as portraits crowned with architectural features, and serialized dystopian graphic novel Solar Grid by Ganzeer showcase the talents of local illustrators. Street artist Agnes Michalczyk, aka The Mozza, has created one of her signature, digital black and white collages featuring women in places normally dominated by men for the façade of the exhibition space.
Elshahed has assembled an assortment of the city’s architects, photographers, urban planners and academics who are documenting and discussing the history and evolution of design and architecture in the urban landscape.
Photographic tomes include Noha Zayed & Basma Hamdy’s book Found Khatt which records calligraphic scripts on shop-fronts, houses, trucks, boats and schools, and Studio Meem’s
Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo which archives the city’s distinctive, upcycled street furniture. Artist Rana Elnemr will be exhibiting Telekinesis , a video collage of balcony designs across Egypt,.
In the digital space, Ahmad Hammoud focuses on visual culture on his online, open-source archive www.samaklaban.net, whilst urban researcher Amr Abotawila and photographer Sondos Seif El-Din are recording fading hand-drawn advertisements of yesteryear painted onto building facades for their Dead Walls project (www.facebook.com/deadwallsegy).
Exhibition space is also reserved for initiatives that animate and preserve Cairo’s public realm. Designs by Studio 39 for shop fronts along one of Downtown Cairo’s pedestrian streets and the redesign of the Kodak Passageway by CLUSTER (Cairo Lab for Urban Studies) will be on display. Social issues come into play with Takween’s designs for a playground for Syrian refugees in the desert outskirts of the city. Community engagement is the focus of Ahmed Zaazaa’s Madd collaborative platform where residents of the Maspero Triangle can debate Norman Foster’s masterplan for the area which proposes replacing the old urban fabric with new towers and commercial spaces.
Three photos as well as an edited video of cutting-edge architect Shahira Fahmy’s abandoned luxury villas overlooking the Pyramids at Giza tie in with the theme of the exhibition. Fahmy was a leading architect in Egypt until her career was cut short when investors pulled out of Egypt following the 2011 uprising and she has since quit the profession to focus on acting.
Architect Samir El Kordy, who has become renowned for his use of unconventional materials and space solutions, showcases his recently completed Gym House.
Notes to Editors
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About Mohamed Elshahed
Mohamed Elshahed is a Cairo-based architect, independent researcher and writer. He is the Curator for the British Museum’s Modern Egypt Project. Elshahed teaches architectural history at the American University in Cairo. In 2014-15 he was an Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices post-doctoral fellow at the Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien. He obtained his doctoral degree from the Middle East Studies Department at New York University. He is currently compiling a guide for Cairo's twentieth century architecture, to be published by the American University in Cairo Press. His forthcoming book Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture and the Politics of Transition in Egypt, 1936-1967, focuses on architecture and urban planning in Egypt during the period of political transition around the 1952 coup d'état. Mohamed has a Bachelor of Architecture from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and a Master in Architecture Studies from MIT.
About Dubai Design Week
Dubai Design Week is one of the world’s newest and most ambitious international design events, conceived to shine a spotlight on Dubai as a leading design hub, and share the UAE’s thriving design scene with the world at large.
Dubai Design Week was established in 2015 in partnership with Dubai Design District (d3), and is held under the dedicated patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, a strategic partner of the event. Dubai Design Week is also supported by Dubai Design & Fashion Council, Audi, Huawei and Swarovski.
In Dubai’s collaborative spirit, and as a reflection of the city’s global outlook, its design week is both regional and international in scope, encompasses public and private spheres, culture, education and entertainment, and spans multiple disciplines, ranging from graphic and product design to architecture and industrial design. Panels, keynote speeches, panel discussions, public performances and educational workshops all contribute to the greater discussion of what design means for the region and the world.
In 2015, 23,000 visitors from around the world gathered in the city to discover the work and ideas of over 150 designers drawn from around the region and internationally. The success of the inaugural edition cemented the future of Dubai Design Week as an annual event.
Coinciding with Downtown Design, the region’s leading, quality-driven design trade fair, Dubai Design Week also includes a number of unique headline initiatives, such as Abwab, the Global Grad Show, Destination and Iconic City.
From 24 to 29 October 2016, over 150 events will be staged in a citywide 6-day celebration of design that will enthrall Dubai with design, engaging the local community and visitors alike.
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About Dubai Design District
Dubai Design District, (d3), one of the TECOM Group’s communities, is a destination dedicated to design. The chosen home for the region’s growing collective of creatives, artists and designers, d3, is a shining beacon of inspiration and innovation. Created to answer the growing need from the industry, d3 provides businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals from across the design value chain with a thriving community where they can collaborate, create and inspire.
Known for its versatility d3 has become a popular events space, attracting international crowds to cultural exhibitions such as Dubai Design Week, Fashion Forward and Meet d3, which have simultaneously driven footfall to d3’s distinguished repertoire of design-focused outlets, art galleries and eateries.
With this year’s launch of lifestyle boutiques, contemporary art galleries and culinary concepts in its core 11 buildings, d3 is a buzz with creativity. Taking a novel approach, d3 has selected original concepts to form a creative community of new retail outlets, restaurants and innovative pop-up events that invite visitors to enjoy a more authentic shopping and dining experience.
d3 is constantly evolving. To cater to its growing number of residents, d3 will feature a one million square foot Creative Community in 2018, which will act as the site’s cultural epicentre, inspiring emerging designers and artists. Another key goal for d3 is to continually surpass the expectations of its visitors, and so by 2021 d3 will also boast a bustling 1.8km Waterfront esplanade running alongside the Dubai Creek, with international and design-led hotels, boutique retail concept stores and an outdoor events space, as well as a host of hospitality and leisure facilities.
To support its many creative partners, d3 offers individuals and businesses the choice of operating either as a free zone entity or as an on-shore business, each with its own merits.
Dubai Design District
Yasmine Kassem: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tara Mallon : email@example.com
About Dubai Culture & Arts Authority
The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (www.dubaiculture.gov.ae) was launched on March 8, 2008 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Dubai Culture plays a critical part in achieving the vision of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2021 of establishing the city as vibrant, global Arabian metropolis that shapes culture and arts in the region and the world.
The organisation has announced several initiatives that strengthen the historic and modern cultural fabric of Dubai. These include:
The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Patrons of the Arts Awards: a first of its kind initiative in the Arab world honouring individuals and organisations who have made financial or in-kind contributions through sustained support to visual arts, performing arts, literature and film in the region
Creatopia: the nation’s first government-empowered virtual community that guides and nurtures the creative culture of the nation, by providing a platform of information and opportunities leading to exposure and personal growth
Dubai Art Season: the city’s premier umbrella arts initiative which encompasses:
o Art Week - Art Dubai, Design Days Dubai, and SIKKA Art Fair which promotes Emirati and local artists in the UAE
o Middle East Film & Comic Con
o Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre
About Dubai Design and Fashion Council
The Dubai Design & Fashion Council was established in late 2014 by the Dubai government to position the city as the Middle East’s emerging international design capital and to nurture regional talent. The Council is chaired by Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, Group CEO of Tecom Group, and run by CEO Nez Gebreel. Its board members consist of 15 individuals who represent a mix of key stakeholder groups, including government, academic, not-for profit and private sector experts, such as Laila Suhail, CEO at Dubai Festival and Retail Establishments; Khalid Al Tayer, CEO of Retail Business of Al Tayer Group; Patrick Chalhoub, CEO of Chalhoub Group; and fashion designer Reem Acra.
The Audi Group, with its brands Audi, Ducati and Lamborghini, is one of the most successful manufacturers of automobiles and motorcycles in the premium segment. It is present in more than 100 markets worldwide and produces at 16 locations in twelve countries. In the second half of 2016, the production of the Audi Q5 will start in San José Chiapa (Mexico). 100 percent subsidiaries of AUDI AG include quattro GmbH (Neckarsulm), Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. (Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy) and Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A. (Bologna, Italy).
In 2015, the Audi Group delivered to customers approximately 1.8 million automobiles of the Audi brand, 3,245 sports cars of the Lamborghini brand and about 54,800 motorcycles of the Ducati brand. In the 2015 financial year, AUDI AG achieved total revenue of €58.4 billion and an operating profit of €4.8 billion. At present, approximately 85,000 people work for the company all over the world, about 60,000 of them in Germany. Audi focuses on new products and sustainable technologies for the future of mobility.
AUDI AG’s commitment to the region was confirmed through the foundation of its fully owned subsidiary in 2005. The current Middle East model range comprises the Audi A3 & S3 Sedan/Sportback and RS 3 Sportback, A4 and RS 4 Avant, the A5 Coupe, Sportback, Cabriolet and RS 5 Coupe and Cabriolet, the A6, S6, RS 6 performance, A7, S7, RS 7 & RS 7 performance, A8, A8 L, S8 & S8 plus, the Audi Q3, Q5 & SQ5, Q7 and the Audi TT Coupe/Roadster and TTS Coupe, the Audi R8 Coupe as well as the R8 Coupe V10 plus.