UAE’S TOFI is Art Jameel choice for Jaddaf Playscape by Dubai Culture - GulfToday

UAE’S TOFI is Art Jameel choice for Jaddaf Playscape by Dubai Culture


View of the Jaddaf Playscape.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Art Jameel, the organisation that supports artists and creative communities, has announced UAE-based design collective Theories of Imagination (TOFI) —  artist-architect Noor Alwan and artist-designer Abdulla Buhijji — as the recipients of the inaugural Jaddaf Playscape, a commission by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), part of the Dubai Public Art initiative.

TOFI’s proposal was selected by an international jury through an Open Call announced in February 2023, which received nearly 100 applications from artists and designers across the UAE.

The inaugural Jaddaf Playscape Commission jury included world-renowned local and international art professionals, architects and curators Cecilia Alemani, Director and Chief Curator of the Highline NYC and Curator of the 59th Venice Biennale of Art 2022; Wael Awar, Founder and Principal Architect of waiwai, representing the UAE at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2021 and winner of the Golden Lion; Amal Khalaf, Projects Curator at the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Director of Cubbit Gallery, London; and Nora Razian, Deputy Director and Head of Exhibitions at Art Jameel.Alongside selecting TOFI as winner, the jury also opted to award Jury Special Mentions to three shortlisted proposals in recognition of their originality and bold vision.

Congratulations go to Carla Baz, designer; Evan Collisson, designer and multidisciplinary artist; and Jumairy and Lina Younes, artist-designer duo. Set to open to the public later in 2023 in the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park next to Jameel Arts Centre, the large-scale interactive sculptural structure titled I Dreamt of a City Everyone Calls Home by TOFI is an adventure playground that encourages play and imagination for all ages.

Taking design cues from the wider Jaddaf area, it seeks to combine vernacular architectural patterns and fauna and flora with new imaginative shapes and formats.

Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai.

Through paying homage to the history of Jaddaf as a crossroad of cultures, the playground becomes a celebration of the diverse communities that have shaped Dubai, drawing inspiration from the area’s historical significance as a boatyard and its role in enabling trade and cross-cultural exchange. I Dreamt of City Everyone Calls Home is designed as a whimsical space for collective dreaming.

Commenting on their selection, TOFI said: “We are very excited to be working on executing our vision for the playscape specifically in Al Jaddaf. Witnessing the growth of the area over the past few years, we feel blessed to be a part of the city through bringing its people together. Our concept strives to create a space that fosters inclusivity and creativity; a space that’s inviting, enticing and engaging for all ages of all walks of life.

“We love the notion of parents using the same play elements with their kids rather than watching from afar, teenagers who can embrace the cool in play, children with different abilities who can explore play with other senses, adults who can join in on the fun in less active ways – there’s something for everyone there. We strongly believe in the impact that urban play can leave on cities and our need for these playful informal spaces - a playground at the heart of Jaddaf and next to Jameel Arts Centre was a dream brief for us. The concept is dear to our hearts and we cannot wait to see it come together, leaving the impact we think it will.”

The Jaddaf Playscape Commission creates a new artist-designed space in Dubai for creative enjoyment, imagination and play for all ages. Opening Autumn 2023 for an initial intended duration of four years, the Commission is a major opportunity for UAE-based artists, designers, architects and collectives to propose and create a monumental, interactive and playful public artwork for the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, the UAE’s first art-themed park, created and managed through a collaboration between Dubai Holding and Art Jameel.

The Commission is devised and curated by Art Jameel and is part of Dubai Culture’s new Dubai Public Art initiative, a multi-year project aimed at enabling public art installations by UAE-based artists, to foster creativity and engagement within the community. Art Jameel’s role as a curatorial partner in the new initiative focuses on commissioning a series of works for the Dubai Creek, informed by deep, site and community-specific research.

Abdulla Buhijji and Noor Alwan.

Alwan and Buhijji run a multidimensional art collaboration with an artistic approach that attempts to be speculative, exploratory and whimsical. They develop fantasised works of art and creative spatial perspectives rooted in cultural insights and research. Their collective TOFI’s work explores topics such as the link between the self and the other, individuals and their environments, place, belonging, identity and memories across time. They function at the convergence of technology and art to develop interactive experiences that provide fun ways to perceive the present and future landscapes.

Additionally, their interventions study and learn from human behaviour, presenting tales on design fiction, and probing the near futures of various issues via the lens of art. TOFI has been commissioned by Misk Art Institute, Bahrain International Airport, Bahrain Pavilion for the Dubai Expo 2020 and Riyadh Art for Noor Riyadh festival. As independent artists, Alwan and Buhijji have showcased their work in Birmingham, Cairo, Manama, Paris, Riyadh and Sharjah. Dubai Public Art is a new multi-year initiative led by Dubai Culture that enables the creation and installation of public art by UAE-based artists. Art Jameel is a curatorial partner, working alongside Art Dubai, Tashkeel, Alserkal and Akaas Visual Arts.


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