Lingua Franca: The 2014 D-Crit Conference

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Khaleeji Design: An Imported Aesthetic?

Nawar Al-Kazemi

The twenty-first century is a golden age for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); in many ways its member states are, as Arab affairs commentator Sultan AlQassemi has termed them, “new centers of the Arabian world.”1 His statement refers to a modernizing impulse in countries such as Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, manifested in the construction of grandiose architectural projects as well as attempts to improve educational standards, including design education. In the rush for modernization, and the enthusiasm for global assimilation, local cultural values are being left out of the equation. In institutions that offer design majors, such as the American University of Kuwait, the American University of Sharjah, and Virginia Commonwealth in Qatar, a combination of factors is resulting in the erosion of students’ and instructors’ knowledge of the local culture. Design students in the Gulf region should be empowered to learn about their region’s history, its distinctive design aesthetic, its use of patterns, Arabic typography and craft skills, for example. This presentation focuses on the role of design education in re-energizing Khaleeji cultural identity, in a region where design is witnessing an influx of imported identities.

  1. AlQassemi, Sultan. “Gulf Cities Emerge As New Centers of Arab World – Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East.” Al-Monitor. N.p., 08 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/10/abu-dhabi-dubai-doha-arab-centers.html (accessed 20 Oct. 2013)

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