Sole DXB, Sole DXB 2018, Temporary structures, Pavilions, Roar, Light Space Design

Architecture takes centre stage at 2018 Sole DXB


Launched in 2010, Sole DXB – a Dubai-based platform for street culture – has become one of the key events to view some of the most experimental temporary structures in the Middle East.

Although focusing primarily on sneaker culture, urban fashion, art, design, and music; architecture has become an underlining element that ties it all together – from the overall masterplan to the various brand activations.

Main entrance and masterplan by Roar

Dubai-based design studio Roar (former Pallavi Dean Interiors) were tasked to create the overall masterplan of the event including the general layout and traffic flow as well as the design of the feature areas. This includes the main entrance, the basketball court, the space for talks and workshops, the radio station, the sneaker swap area, as well as the Early Retirement concept store and lounge.

The evolution of street culture across the globe was one of key themes this year, exploring narratives such as equality, colour, and transparency.
Much like in 2017 where the defining aesthetic took inspiration from Tokyo’s urban fabric, last year shed light on South Africa’s street culture – namely the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood in Cape Town which is defined by its prominent use of colourful housing.

Roar used the concept of colour-blocking as a way to re-imagine the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood in a modern context, filtering into the design of the main entrance as well as the various pop-ups around the event.

Each year shipping containers are used as a base of the main entrance, with the 2018 edition seeing an experimentation of scale and layout that is completely marked by its use of colour.

“The result was a series of impressive tower-like structures with an increasing central elevation like a pyramid or mountain which drew the eye up to a 10-metre tall centre point,” said Marcela Munoz, associate interior designer at Roar.

“We introduced a graphic concept to the containers developed by Sole DXB’s creative director, Hussain Moloobhoy and his design agency Moloobhoy & Brown. Their artwork wrapped the towers, with each individual tower looking like a layered colour camouflage which, when viewed from the front, came together to form one giant tie dye image.

The reverse side was used as a billboard to share information about the fair to its attendees, alongside giant images of a South African sunset that the Sole DXB team shot during their visit there.

Commenting on the masterplan design, Munoz explained that the starting point should always be about “positioning the common areas in strategic points to create a better flow within the venue”.

“Sole DXB’s venue itself is rectangular, linear and long and it would have been problematic if we located everything in to one side or in one place,” she explained.

“Our overriding objective was to create balance within the space, removing any dead-end spaces and creating more defined, yet interconnected, areas. We developed a 45-degree grid which enabled us to locate all the core elements of the event - the talks, the radio station, the sneakers swap, the lounge, the basketball court - that attract some of the highest visitor footfall in very strategic areas to give these areas better circulation.

“We positioned the stage to the left, with the equally popular basketball court to the right, with F&B areas on both sides, and created small blocks or ‘compounds’ of brands, so people can circulate around them and for all brands to be visible to the visitors.”

Munoz added that the design team at Roar worked closely with Sole DXB’s design director, Josh Cox which was a “shake-up of the usual supplier-client relationship”.

“Design is hugely important to the experience itself. We strived to create a story and one that could easily be retold,” she said.

“Without a clear design narrative, Sole DXB would be a bit soulless. From the organisers to the participating brands, performers and the punters, a narrative is the common thread that unites all.”

She added that the event’s commitment to design is an incentive for participating brands to also “pour their efforts into creating brilliantly-curated spaces themselves.”

“This level of design commitment and engagement is what creates Sole DXB’s 360-degree rounded experience,” she said.

Puma brand activation by Light Space Design | XTC

Dubai-based Light Space Design - under its new events and pop-up creative design consultancy, XT Concepts - continued its design collaboration with Puma to create its latest brand activation at Sole DXB, with a strong focus on sustainability and openness.

View from SoleDXB concert space towards the stand’s courtyard. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

Designing a pavilion that was over 70 per cent recycled from the previous years, the 2018 Puma pavilion explored ways in which to blur the lines between interior and exterior spaces and encourage as much inclusivity and interaction as possible.

The structure is similar to the previous years with the reuse of most of the steel structure and glass, the shipping containers, almost 30% of the fixtures, and all of the stair cases.

Ground floor. View towards ‘CALI’ mural. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

Reinvention, retooling, and reinterpretation were some of the underlining themes across the overall design approach, which works in line with Light Space Design’s commitment to creating sustainable structures and spaces.

Ariel view towards Downtown Dubai. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

“For a three day event it doesn’t make sense to rebuild from scratch,” said principal partner, Farid Noufaily.

The pavilion featured two additional storeys to its previous design, with the stage set on street level along with the retail units, an enclosed event space and F&B areas and lounge spaces set on the remaining levels of the pavilion.

First floor and second floor themed pads. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

The design approach followed the idea of ‘people attract people’ where a sense of openness and audience visibility are used to draw in more visitors.

Transparency was also integrated within the physical form of the structure and its materials, from translucent corrugated acrylic sheets that double-up as windows and an overall structure that is open on almost all sides, allowing visitors to interact with the space, each other, and the event itself.

Second floor canopy art installation by Najd Altaher. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

“The stage this year was moved downstairs, so when the concerts begin, the pavilion becomes even more inclusive in the way that is actually opens up completely externally to allow visitors to experience them without having to physically be on the stand,” said Noufaily. “It’s all about transparency and open-ness and welcoming.”

Retail interior view towards cashier. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

He added that instead of creating a ‘garage’ like in the previous years, the latest edition featured what can be seen as a ‘reinterpreted favela’.
“That word is commonly seen as negative but we don’t see it like that because it is about community and it is for everyone and that’s the thing about the Puma structure, it’s about inclusivity: there is no exclusivity, there is no VIP section. There are invite-only workshops but they are within spaces that everyone can access,” he explained.

The pavilion also followed a red and blue colour scheme, a cue taken from the relaunch of Puma’s classic 80s RS sneakers, reimagined as RS-X with a bulkier design and bold colour palette.

View from entrance adjacent to retail shop. Photo credit: Shadow Photography

Light Space Design used the two colours throughout the pavilion to indicate various areas within the activation and mark its different entrances and exits, working as wayfinding indicators.

“2017 was the growing phase,” said Noufaily. “We had already developed the lounge and already took on the collaboration with the Suede Guerrillas [young creatives from the Middle East] so we already knew most of the game plan. This year it was about re-appropriating and re-tooling,” he explained.

Dior Men’s brand activation by in-house team in collaboration with Kaws

Dior’s in-house design team collaborated with American artist and designer Kaws to create a series of dedicated pop-up stores around the world, launching Kim Jones’ – current creative director of Dior Men – debut collection. The Sole DXB activation was the finale of the series.
The three-storey concept store featured a steel scaffolding structure which was designed to be both open and flexible, branded with the artist’s reinterpreted Dior logo and bee.

The in-house team used the bee to create a series of structuring elements for the rest of the structure, using the outlines of the bee’s wings for the hangings and lighting elements, and its antennas in the upstairs terrace level, which also features a terrace and a bar.


“A very important thing for us at Dior Men is that now we are in a much more playful story, using still the more classic Dior colours like grey and black juxtaposed with the more playful elements of the bee like its wings and antennas,” said a spokesperson from the brand’s in-house design team.


The pavilion’s sense of openness and interaction between indoor and outdoor spaces is a direct translation of the Dior Oblique collection, inspired by the vintage shapes of the Dior signature lines created in the 1970s by then-creative director, John Galliano.

Sole DXB took place in Dubai Design District, from 6-8 December 2018. 

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