How Sole DXB upped its architecture game
designMENA looks at how design and architecture took centre stage at the 2017 Sole DXB.
Tokyo’s urban fabric and design language was a key theme at this year’s Sole DXB, an event that celebrates footwear, fashion, culture, art and design, set within the Dubai Design District.
First launched in 2010, aside from its celebration of street culture and fashion, the event has held a strong architectural focus. In addition to various brand pavilions and booths, the masterplan and layout of the overall event informs the navigation and its relation to the theme.
Aside from its celebration of street culture and fashion, the event has always held a strong architectural focus. In addition to various brand pavilions and booths, the masterplan and layout of the overall event informs the navigation and its relation to the theme.
Commenting on the importance of design, co-founder and creative director of Sole DXB, Joshua Cox said: “The design of the event is one of the central elements of Sole DXB. As owners of the business we could probably get away with doing less and spending less on the design, but in all areas, the graphics, the marketing and the physical design, it is important to the kind of experience we want to put our names to.
“The design and architecture is the foundation element [of the event]. It starts from day one of the 12-month process of putting on a show of this scale, working with a fixed blank concrete slab and building everything from scratch over 10 days.”
Entrance installation at Sole DXB
An installation set at the entrance of this year’s event paid tribute to the urban fabric of Tokyo, namely its street lights and signs.
“Tokyo lights are really something quite special, and we wanted to make a statement that set the tone and transported you into a new world,” said Cox.
The installation features stacked shipping containers as the structural foundation, which are integrated with digital screens, acrylic light boxes, flat signs and neon lights.
“There are over 54 different signs, and it was tricky to do safely,” Cox explained. “They were all powered by three regular house sockets. We worked with our creative agency Moloobhoy & Brown to create the graphics of all 54 signs.
“Integrating the screens was a challenge in finding the right size screen in terms of depth at the resolution we wanted. We then rigged a truss and welded hanging plates to be able to attach these,” he said.
Puma at Sole DXB by Light Space Design
Light Space Design (LSD) has been involved in the architectural planning and designing of Sole DXB since 2014, when the architects were first commissioned to design and oversee the overall masterplan which since led to an annual collaboration. The design studio has worked on a total of nine structures for various brands t the event, including Puma.
This year’s Puma pavilion focused on the idea of creating an experience, rather than being a strictly retail-led space, while also taking into consideration the theme of Tokyo.
The programme combined four spatial elements spread across two floors, including a a self contained retail store, a flexible ‘night club’-inspired space which features a bar and the back of house on the ground floors, and a internal and external-facing performance space including a stage and bar, set upstairs.
“This year’s concept took the ideas of modern and traditional Japan, both visually and culturally,” said principal partner, Farid Noufaily.
“The overall structure invokes the traditional joinery aesthetic by taking a simple detail and repeating it until it develops into a complex overall structure. We were fascinated with the idea of layering. The alleyway, a brilliant and ambitions idea [which came about] during our many workshops with the client, became the main artery connecting the different program elements together.
“Regardless of where you are in the structure, there is always a sense of experiencing the different activities taking place. This approach of layering, sound, light, visibility, and activity was what made the concept such a success this year,” Noufaily explained.
The core of the structure is made of four 40ft high cubic containers with MS steel reinforcements and bracing. The overall facade is made using an Light Gauge Steel (LGS) frame system, painted in black, which the architects sourced locally from Ajman.
“We designed the overall LGS facade to be independent of the steel structure, although they overlap in certain sections. The design was modeled in 3D and then exported to a proprietary program developed to print the LGS system into sections. These are then assembled at the factory into structures which can be transported to the site on trailers,” explained Noufaily.
“Once on site, the 20 individual frame structures are put together like a puzzle using assembly drawings/ instructions. It all sounded amazingly easy on paper and in execution, but it was the first time our fabricators had assembled something this complicated in LGS, so it was an interesting learning curve on site for everyone.”
Sustainability was also a strong focus within the overall design of the pavilion, with the architects reusing elements of the structure and other parts of the design from previous years.
“We are proud to say that every year we work tightly with our fabricators to recycle the Puma Sole DXB structure from the year before,” said Noufaily.
“Every year we recycle up to 50 to 60 per cent of all the steel and wood elements in the structure. and whatever we cannot recycle or reuse, we trade or sell back to the various suppliers we work with to minimise waste.
“This strategy is one that both Puma and LSD have had from the first structure we built in 2014. The intention from the beginning was to invest in container structures which would become a flexible base for us to begin every year. The 2014 containers were standard 20ft containers which we used to build the 2015 and 2016 structures.
“Last year we made the active decision to trade in the 20ft containers for the 40ft-high cubes, which would give us taller and larger column-free internal rooms,” he explained.
LSD were also involved in the retail design, also using recycled elements from previous structures for the modular fixtures.
“Working closely with the retail team and specifically the head of retail at Puma Middle East, we were able develop five key retail fixtures which could be combined in over 120 different useful configurations.
The modularity allows for a high degree of flexibility in the displays,” Noufaily said.
LSD has also revealed its plans to branch out into pop-up experiences and event design, with the launch of a new company called X.T.Concepts, which grew from its continued success on working for Sole DXB.
Dior at Sole DXB
The Dior stand, which was unveiled for the first time this year, focused on the idea of oppositions and contrasts of materials, elements, and shapes.
The Dior logo, which is usually used as a decorative detail, became the structural facade and prominent aspect of the booth, created from wood and painted black. Other materials that are commonly considered light and fragile were used as heavy-weight and defining elements, including paper and thread.
The pavilion itself is set on two levels: the lower level focused on products and retail, while the upstairs terrace hosted private events and musical acts.
Inside, stacks of posters promoting its new BMX bike were used as display support for various products, housed inside a concrete-textured interior.
The overall metal structure features many hundreds of red thread that elevates to the upper lounge terrace, providing shade to the visitors, as well as offering views of the overall environment outside.