Guest Designers for Downtown Design 2019, XBD Collective have imagined this year’s fair café as an urban oasis.

Each year, Downtown Design invites a leading regional design firm to help to remaster the fair’s layout and overall experience. This year, demonstrating the diversity and sophistication of regional design firms the fair invited three award-winning design firms to deliver a dynamic new visual language for the fair’s public areas.

Entrusted with the design of this year’s café, XBD Collective have envisaged the space as a sanctuary for visitors to relax, work and get together.

“We wanted to create a look and feel that would not only be welcoming and inspiring, we wanted to take this opportunity to demonstrate to the international design industry visiting Downtown Design, the evolving values of design in the region,” says Ellen Søhoel, Managing Partner and Co-founder of the Dubai and London based practice specializing in high-end residential and hospitality projects. “We have tapped into global design trends, contextualized and interpreted them in a manner that will offer visitors a unique experience.”

Located within Downtown Editions, the fair’s section for limited-edition and bespoke design, the café will be marked by a screen of bamboo trees, that whilst doubling as a soft divide from the bustling exhibition space will bring nature into the fair’s built environment.

Visually the café design is inclusive, without referencing any one culture; in terms of spatial organization, in allowing for flexibility of group sizes and function, it responds to the growing demands for adaptive spaces the public sphere.

Incorporating light woods, refined contours and sleek forms, and with a focus on natural elements, the café’s creative direction takes cues from current design codes.

The heart of the café is a tiered high bench layered with landscaping. The sculptural focal point will also be a place for guests and exhibitors to catch up on work or grab a quick bite. Booths and café style seating will offer space to meet, network and do business. Outside, the terrace area will feature an open fire, lush greens and raking sand – an inviting setting for visitors to make the most of Dubai’s balmy November weather.

The café design was both fun and challenging for the studio’s design team. To be able to develop something that will never be seen again after the fair, but with the same attention to quality as any high-end project required creative dexterity and a re-imagining of the build process. To realise their creative vision, XBD Collective enlisted the services of leading regional suppliers, most notably contractors Cherwell, Walk Thru General Contracting and the leading AV solutions providers, Platinum Vision.

“The café gives us a platform to contribute to an ongoing dialogue on quality and contemporary design in the region. With Downtown Design leading the way, the collaboration has been most natural,” says Ellen. “It has been a great opportunity to create something with the design community as the end user. Us designers, don’t get that opportunity too often.”