The AD Design Awards identified and celebrated the best architecture, interiors and product design in the Middle East region, garlanding individual architects and designers as well as the studios producing the most exceptional work.
The winners for the debut AD Middle East Design Awards have been announced, with a diverse range of projects in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, UAE, Jordan and Iran. Celebrating luminaries in the fields of architecture, interiors and product design across nine impactful categories, the awards spotlight regional excellence.
Residential Architecture | House of Many Vaults, L.E.FT Architects, Niha, Lebanon
An inspired reinvention of tradition, this home by Beirut practice L.E.FT Architects occupies a lofty site overlooking the Mediterranean in the ancient town of Niha, in Lebanon’s Chouf mountains. It takes its cue from the cross-vaulted houses that have been typical of the region for the past century or so, but with a dramatic modern twist: a higher elevation at the front is designed to be impressive, while the downward slope towards the rear of the house reflects its more private, domestic side. It also means that the building appears to kneel – appropriate enough, as it’s located close to the shrine that marks the burial site of Biblical prophet Job.
Commercial Architecture | Ayla Golf Club, Oppenheim Architecture + Design LLP, Aqaba, Jordan
Resplendent in terracotta-hued concrete, the undulating form of this golf clubhouse is a masterclass in designing buildings that are sympathetic to their surroundings. Designed by Miami- and Basel-based practice Oppenheim Architecture, its form mimics those of the desert dunes and mountain peaks all around, and is also influenced by traditional Bedouin tents. Modern, minimal landscaping, with cacti and palm trees, completes the organic look, while panels in perforated Corten steel filter the bright sunlight. The diamond patterns on these panels are borrowed from Jordanian heritage and echo Arabian mashrabiya fretwork.
Product Design | Archer Rugs by Taher Asad-Bakhtiari for CC-Tapis
How to reinvent that most functional of carpet forms, the runner? Give it a new shape and symbolic identity. That’s what self-taught, Iranian-born textile artist Taher Asad-Bakhtiari has done with his new Archer collection for Italian rug brand CC-Tapis, which takes inspiration from astrology, religion and past civilizations and features graphic arrow-like shapes.
Emerging Talent | Sayar Garibeh, Lebanon
Stephanie Sayar and Charbel Garibeh met 12 years ago at college and set up their studio in 2015. Since then, they’ve carved out a distinctive aesthetic, combining organic and geometric forms with traditional crafts and whimsical anthropomorphic touches. They describe their work as “happy, colourful, fictional and functional”.
Cultural Project | Nuzul Al Salam, Muharraq, Bahrain
A recent regeneration scheme has put Bahrain’s historic city of Muharraq back into the spotlight. With its rich architectural heritage, it’s long been a centre for culture and the arts, and the Pearling Path, home to the grand old mansions of local pearl merchants, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. The new jewel in the crown of this romantic district is the Nuzul Al Salam hotel, a triumphant restoration of a period villa known as Fathallah House.
Hospitality Design | Elixir Bunn, Azaz Architects, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The striking new Elixir Bunn coffee shop in Riyadh, designed by bright young architectural talent Shahad Alazzaz, reimagines Saudi Arabia’s ancient coffee tradition for the modern age. It’s also an object lesson in how to approach a challenging space: Alazzaz (who’s based in Madrid and Riyadh and set up AZAZ Architects in 2017) had to grapple with a structural column planted in the middle of the location, which she cleverly transformed with a series of Islamic-inspired arches. These radiate outwards from the column-like branches, their curves mirroring those of a contemporary spiral staircase.
Interior Design | Villa 53, Nakkash Design Studio, Dubai
Awash with warm colour and layered decorative details, this contemporary, five-bedroom villa in Dubai demonstrates how to use art in an interior with flair. Created for a young art-collecting couple by Dubai’s NAKKASH Design Studio – whose founder Omar Nakkash is a graduate of New York’s prestigious Parsons The New School of Design – Villa 53 is a cosy yet sleek reinvention of an existing modern building.
Innovation & Sustainability | Deciduous Pavilion, MEAN* (Middle East Architecture Network), Dubai
Dubai-based architect and entrepreneur Riyad Joucka is a radical thinker: as the founder of MEAN*, he deploys cutting-edge digital technologies to come up with innovative solutions to environmental and social challenges. Serious stuff, then, but his Deciduous 3D Printed Pavilion – built in front of the Dubai International Finance Center to mark its Art Nights event – is also a thing of joy. It’s intended to represent autumn and to ponder what this season means in today’s climate-challenged world.
Designer of the Year | Pallavi Dean
When the pandemic hit, Pallavi Dean, the founder and creative director of Roar said “let’s assume that we don’t win another project or get paid another invoice in 2020,” and streamlined the business accordingly. But even in a uniquely challenging time, the studio thrived, delivering one stellar project after another, recently announcing the Emirati entrepreneur Anas Bukhash as a non-executive director.