I moved to Dubai three years ago with my husband, Sadiq Das and daughter. The economy in the US was starting to fall apart and since my husband and I are both in the same line of work, Dubai seemed like the obvious choice.
Since that time, we have had some exciting and interesting experiences that could not have been replicated in any other part of the world. Even though the economy started its eventual decline, I am still grateful we were here because I was able to learn more about the restrictions a troubled economy can put on all types of businesses.
It’s during times like this when people tend to use their capabilities in new and innovative ways to adapt to the changing environment. Being an emerging country, UAE provides a market that is not saturated, with Dubai at the forefront. One can find many opportunities as long as you think outside the box and this is where my passion for sustainability has helped me.
During my university days, one of the things our professors introduced to us was sustainability in design and one of our projects was to create relief shelters for 10,000 people using shipping containers. This was an eye-opening experience for me and it changed the way I viewed the process of design. It made me realise one can create beautiful designs by using products which have reached the end of their functional lifecycle.
I have come across several opportunities in this region for sustainable design ideas, if only at a much smaller scale for now, and I had the opportunity to showcase these at the 2011 Index Majlis Competition. This concept is recycling, or better yet ‘upcycling’. In the process of upcycling, unlike recycling, there is no need to transport the product to a recycling facility or use energy to produce the new recycled material.
Instead, designers and artists can use their creativity to reinvent the same item, in its original form, for a new purpose. This process is similar to what we all do in our every day lives.
My husband and I have recently started a productline, under the name Re3, using disposed tyres and converting them into indoor or outdoor stools. Some of these prototypes are currently on display at The Third Line gallery as well as Baydaar showroom in Al Quoz.
We are very excited about the prospect of where this concept could lead and will be developing more product lines of upcycled products as we create partnerships with local workshops and factories in UAE. We are also creating a free online forum for local designers and artists who want to be a part of this incredible opportunity where they can share ideas and form partnerships with us in developing their designs for profit as well as for benefitting the local community by reusing things we usually see as waste and reinventing them into aesthetic and functional items.
Of course, the concept itself has been around for years and these types of products have already made an impact in places like the US, but our goal is to promote local talent in the field of art and find business opportunities for local companies in the process.
‘Form follows function’, a design mantra, coined by Louis Sullivan, is one of my favourite mottos. This phrase means more to me now when I see how it can be reinvented into a more diverse statement. The process of giving an item a new function and form has endless options. Think about disused glass bottles and how they can be paired together to create a beautiful chandelier. Imagine a punctured car tyre that you just replaced.
Now imagine sitting on that same tyre as a funky outdoor stool. Who says everything good has to be new? Why not reinvent what has already been through one lifecycle and turn it into a functional piece of art in your home, hotel or office? Let’s start a conversation about this important social, economical and ecological issue and think about form following function in a whole new way.
Carrie Das, design manager, ahk International. This year’s CID AHEC winner for Zayed University library, Abu Dhabi