Winning Sabeel 2020 designs to inspire innovative drinking fountains across Expo 2020 site

Photo: Staff

Two UAE-based design teams have been selected to showcase their innovative blends of contemporary art and Emirati heritage through creative interpretations of the traditional drinking fountain – sabeel – that will offer fresh drinking water to millions of visitors across the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

The designs, chosen by an international jury as winners of the Sabeel 2020 design contest, were submitted by Architecture + Other Things and design team Faissal El-Malak and Alia Bin Omair. Multidisciplinary firm Tinkah also received an honourable mention in the competition.

Each of the winning teams will receive a prize of AED 100,000, and the designers will have the opportunity to work with worldclass Expo 2020 architects and engineers to adapt their interpretations into 53 fountains across the Expo 2020 site, imaginatively capturing the spirit of the UAE and the region’s cultural values, while highlighting the importance of water for sustainable living.

Launched in July 2019 as part of a collaboration between Expo 2020 and Art Jameel, the Sabeel 2020 initiative called on the regional creative community to submit concepts that reimagine the sabeel – to celebrate a cultural icon in the region and provide fresh drinking water to visitors during the six months of the World’s Greatest Show.

Providing relief to passers-by and travellers and symbolising our collective humanity, the community drinking fountain is a visual marker for the UAE, reflecting the country’s heritage and its spirit of hospitality, tolerance and generosity.

Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Through the unifying power of water – one of our most precious resources – the innovative and creative designs will shed light on one of the most unique traditions of UAE culture. Sabeel 2020 is also a great opportunity for us to showcase UAE design talent to the world and work with the winning designers to bring their visions to life on an incredible global platform.”

The collaboration between Expo 2020 and Art Jameel aimed to engage designers, architects, artists and other UAE-based creatives, plus international practitioners with a strong connection to the UAE. Through the open call, Expo 2020 received more than 100 proposals.

Seven internationally respected jurors from the world of art, design and architecture, assessed 20 shortlisted submissions based on criteria such as the strength of the concept, both artistically and technically; consideration of the architecture and environment of the site; visitor usability; interpretation of the sabeel concept; and technical and budgetary feasibility.

Antonia Carver, Director at Art Jameel, said: “We’re thrilled and honoured to collaborate with Expo 2020 Dubai to curate Sabeel 2020, and we congratulate this set of talented UAE-based designers on their dynamic reinventions of the drinking water fountain. We also thank our stellar international jury for their time, rigour, and dedication to nurturing the UAE creative scene.

“Art Jameel has a particular interest in water and confluence; Sabeel 2020 is another expression of our commitment to both exploring water as the most precious resource, and to the UAE itself.”

From 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai will welcome the world to celebrate creativity, innovation and culture. Its theme, ‘Connecting minds, Creating the future’, reflects Expo 2020’s vision for a better future for our planet. With 192 participating countries and an expected 25 million visits, it will be the largest event ever held in the Arab World.

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