Drifting through the Avenue on a warm Saturday afternoon is a super way to make friends: find a designer car, a bit of bling, grab a seat, encounter cultures, buy sneakers, taste a fresh coffee and even meet a real designer or two. This trail takes you into spaces with teams who know all about the processes of crafting and producing design.
A quick history of modern design
Designers in the past were men, they apprenticed in vast workshops and made things for royalty or Popes. Then, with historical shifts and major events such as women's suffrage, the end of World War I (both in 1918), the Bauhaus starting in 1919, the birth of 'modernism' and inventions like global air travel, design became a discipline which stopped fitting neat categories and arrived at the huge variety of scope you can find at Alserkal Avenue today.
Obviously this is a truncation of circa 1600 – 1900, but it does outline the salient points of automation (highly productive mechanisation) which changed design. It had designers re-skilling to become transdisciplinary thinkers, engineers, and makers that now embrace the fear of not-knowing on a daily basis to invent new possibilities that improve our quality of life all the time.
The design trail
Nostalgia Classic Cars | Colour & Transport
In 1808, the world got its first combustion engine. This was followed by Karl Benz's gas-powered car in 1885 and America's mass-produced Ford Model T in 1927. In Nostalgia Classic Cars, you can find this sweep of history and museum-grade cars, plus learn more about owning similar classic car designs.
The Jewel Teller | Bodies & Objects
The Jewel Teller workshop makes bespoke fine jewellery and displays ready-to-wear items and collections too. The artisans use gems, including emeralds and natural pearls, which are special to Dubai's recent history.
ikonhouse | Products & Forms
Utility, form, the cost of materials? Not core concerns of pre-modernist furniture, which was ornate and not necessarily functional. Charles and Ray Eames and other modernist furniture designers were a breath of fresh air in the early 20th century when their iconic pieces were designed; many of these are displayed in ikonhouse's showroom.
CHI-KA | Cities & Textiles
CHI-KA is a contemporary kimono and art space that explores the links between Japan and the Middle East. They work with Japanese textiles and adapt them to a new time and place. CHI-KA was established in Alserkal Avenue, but its concept reflects the re-opening of trade between Japan and the globe in the last 100 years. This move has been inspirational to design, as seen in CHI-KA's innovative designs that blend Japanese kimono styles with abayas.
The Good Life | Patents & Prototyping
What we call sneakers today have come a long way in technological design complexity since the 18th century. Back then, the plimsoll, made of canvas and a rubber sole glued together, was one of the most common types of shoe. Now we have sneakers selling for half a million and virtual prototyping to design them. Pop in see their collection and ask The Good Life team 'what's hot and what's not'?
The Night Jar | Roasting & Making
As society evolves, so does our food and drink. The world of designer coffee is a key indicator of this. In the Night Jar (which is the Avenue's roastery, eatery and perfect spot to end a walk-around), you can also learn about the provenance of your food and thank the 9th century Ethiopian who first discovered coffee beans.
SVENM is based at Alserkal Avenue and our knowledge of design is both research-based (strategic consultancy for the UAE National Pavilion to Venice, for example) and practical (architectural concepts and build supervision for private residences in the GCC, large-scale master plans for Art Dubai, Downtown Design and so on). Put simply, we not only make design in all its dimensions, but admire it across disciplines.
SVENM permanently make homes, bespoke objects and 'aha' experiences for clients and guests and next up for us is a public workshop in our studio. Find out more on SVENM's Facebook page.
Sonia Brewin from SVENM led a curated design trail around Alserkal Avenue on 13 January 2018. We encourage visitors to recreate this trail and make use of her notes along the way.
Photos by Sven Mueller.