Colab ... serving as a gallery, event and activation space, and networking hub.

Colab, the first purpose-built material library in the UAE, aims to be the design community’s window to the world of material innovation and processes, looking to ignite a paradigm shift in the way materials are chosen for projects in the region.

Strategically positioned in the heart of Dubai’s design hub – in Building 1b at the Dubai Design District (d3) – the material library has only been open for a few months but has already received tremendous response and “we are positive of driving change in partnership with material suppliers we are working with,” Richard Wilson, its creative director, tells Gulf Construction.

Apart from its primary function as a material library and inspiration and learning centre, the place also serves as a gallery, event and activation space, and networking hub in its bid to bring the entire creative community together.

Colab ... located in the Dubai Design District (d3).

Colab ... located in the Dubai Design District (d3).

It aims to elevate design across the region by offering a platform to showcase the latest materials and design trends from across the globe whilst highlighting excellence in regional design.

Citing experts, Wilson says the world is on the advent of the fifth industrial revolution and leading this charge toward futurism is a steady but assured remodelling of the world’s base materials.

“Our role then is to simply connect the regional creative and design community with material innovation and processes from all across the world in order to initiate that spark or idea that might just help in a paradigm shift,” he remarks.

Wilson says while designers might not necessarily specify materials they don’t know, this doesn’t mean they are not hungry to learn more. In the same token, he believes this region is ripe for pilot projects where new materials and processes can be implemented and this could be a catalyst for positive change and an example for the world to follow.

“We are more than happy to scour the planet for the latest innovations and developments and bring them to Colab. All we can hope for, in return, is that same hunger for knowledge and support from the design community,” he adds.

Colab ... a materials library.

Colab ... a materials library.

In addition, he says, given Colab’s neutral and unbiased position – wherein it does not have any commercial or sales agenda for the materials it showcases and the positive response so far – there is no reason why Colab can’t establish itself as a design mecca for the region in the years to come.

At the heart of Colab is its commercial sample library – a growing collection of innovative materials from across the globe – open to architects, designers, creatives, manufacturers and material enthusiasts to explore.

Wilson says the place aims to offer an unbiased avenue for the design community to see, touch, research and discuss, and hopefully apply this knowledge and experience to their own practice.

“We aim to showcase materials from the leading material suppliers across the globe who have a commercial interest in supplying to the region but who are equally interested in material innovation as well,” he adds.

In fact, Colab has partnered with Material ConneXion, the leading materials-driven design authority and partner of the most innovative brands in the world, to host the first Innovation Walls in the UAE at d3.

The Innovation Walls at Colab.

The Innovation Walls at Colab.

Curated by Material ConneXion’s team of experts, the Innovation Walls are a physical manifestation of Material ConneXion’s consulting expertise, tangible material samples, and cross-industry insight, incorporating a range of materials on the cutting edge of technology and sustainability.

According to Wilson, materials come first and designers should care about the materials they choose as much as their design. “With this in mind, we want to help the design community understand better the importance of material selection,” he points out.

Through its partnership with Material ConneXion, Colab hopes to use its materials intelligence to help the industry innovate. “By offering access to some of the best material solutions and by providing an insight into tomorrow’s opportunities, we hope to act as a catalyst for new material and product ideas,” he adds.

Welcoming Colab to the design community, Khadija Al Bastaki, executive director at d3, says: “Business partners, such as Colab, will not only enhance our offering at d3 but also elevate design across the region through facilitating seamless access to materials and related intelligence for designers. We hope that creatives from across the UAE are inspired by the Innovation Walls on display and enjoy the opportunity Colab opens up in terms of networking and freedom to create.”

The Innovation Walls are refreshed quarterly with 20 of the most exciting materials and advancements across industries. All of the materials connect to Material ConneXion’s subscription-based materials library, which is the world’s largest library of advanced, innovative, sustainable materials and processes in the world, with ever-growing physical libraries around the globe and an online database that provides immediate access to over 7,000 materials.

Colab’s mission is to provide designers with a creative space in which to innovate, contemplate and understand all aspects of materials. A programme of talks, seminars, panel discussions and presentations will aim to foster creativity. In addition, lunch and learn sessions, CPD (Continuing Professional Development) presentations, and networking evenings will also feature on a regular basis, concludes Wilson.