Emirati architect Abdalla Almulla of MULA Design Studio created the Of Palm Pavilion pavilion at Dubai Design Week. The Of Palm emerges as a symbol of innovative design merging sustainability and contemporary aesthetics. The pavilion itself unfolds as a triad of components: a base crafted from Palmwood, a column fashioned from a Palm trunk, and a roof adorned with a photo mat—a traditional Emirati concoction from palm leaves. Crafted platforms from palm wood engage in a geometric pattern, complementing the pavilion’s form. Twelve columns, sculpted from Palm trunks, adopt a radial pattern, evoking traditional Emirati huts adorned with palm branches and supported by palm trunk columns.
In the current era, the call for sustainability is louder than ever, driving a reassessment of historical norms prioritizing maximum outputs with minimal resource outlays. The palm tree takes center stage, exemplifying sustainable resource utilization beyond its traditional roles. This arboreal virtuoso, deeply rooted in Emirati culture, becomes a polymathic resource ingeniously utilized in essential structures and traditional crafts. Of Palm, crafted by Abdalla AlMulla, explores avant-garde forms that redefine our understanding of the date palm, experimenting with materials and pushing the boundaries of functionality and aesthetics.
The pavilion’s roof tells a unique story—a timber support framework ensconced by khoos mats meticulously tethered in a modular ballet. The traditional palm weaving craft undergoes a metamorphosis, embracing parametric and mathematical tenets. An experimental odyssey unfolds, giving rise to a conical layout through the folding of mats, creating a radial concentric organic tapestry that envelops the entire roof structure.
At the heart of the Of Palm Pavilion lies the art of repurposing time-honored sustainable architectural practices into the contemporary milieu. Once a lifeline for Emiratis, the palm, providing sustenance and shelter, transforms into a vessel of transformative potential. Its repurposing signifies new prospects, where traditional practices find resonance in the demands of the modern era, fostering optimism for a brighter future.
The architect also grappled with the alchemy of utilizing raw palm materials, aiming for an aesthetic echoing the fluidic tapestry intrinsic to palm-woven handicrafts. The journey entailed through experimentation, both physical prototypes and digital prototypes ultimately resulting in a spatial display where intricate flooring patterns harmonize with a beautiful ceiling—an ode to the interwoven mats of their culture. The beauty of this installation is an homage to working with natural materials, a narrative unraveling as raw elements are reimagined in multifunctional and novel ways. The ethos of repurposing pre-conceived or pre-fabricated elements becomes an art form, an incisive eye for design guiding each transformative stroke.
As Dubai Design Week unfolds from November 7 to 12, it embarked on a thematic exploration of climate change and sustainability, aligning with Cop28, the forthcoming UN climate talks in Dubai. AlMulla’s installation, a reverent homage to the date palm, is a testament to the tree’s perennial role as a bastion of sustainability within Emirati culture.
In AlMulla’s eyes, Dubai Design Week is the cradle for the conceptualization and execution of “Of Palm.” The event epitomizes how design, as a bridge, spans diverse perspectives and experiences, fostering a vibrant, inclusive community. It beckons as an opportunity to traverse uncharted terrain, where designers stretch the limits of their creativity, bringing new products and experiences to a global audience.
Architects: MULA Design Studio
Area: 115 sqm
Lead Architect: Abdalla Almulla
Construction: Wood World
Sketches & Illustration: Hari Sangeeth
Diagrams & Illustration: Balakumaran
Visualisation: Mohammed Aldirdiri
Country: United Arab Emirates
Photographs: Jam Javier