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Design Diary: UAE designer’s in tune with nature

Experimental designer Talin Hazbar explores the temporality of our environment


Talin Hazbar is very tactile. Her fascination with texture, grain and emulsion, and their endless permutations is matched only by her keen interest in science and a process-driven approach. No wonder then, the Syria-born architect’s works bestow starring roles to nature elements. “Time changes everything in nature,” says the American University of Sharjah alumnus. “Working with nature, one has to have flexibility and a sense of letting go, because much as we may work within a controlled environment and have parameters set, nature always expresses itself.”

Hazbar likens this self-expression to the human tendency: “We interact with our surroundings. So does nature.” The result is truly individual works, with no two works ever the same, and a new understanding of the potential of the elements around us.

Hazbar’s work tries to accentuate the importance of designing within natural systems, experimenting with materials to stretch our understanding of their behaviour, challenge perception, and recall naturally built structures. The process of materials transforming, be it towards growth or decay allows her to understand transience that exists around and within us.

Since she graduated in 2012, Hazbar has been a permanent fixture on the design-art circuit, sparking both admiration and debate through her works. Here we present some of her milestone projects that bring to life the UAE’s unique materiality.

Talin Hazbar at her studio


Having grown up in Dubai surrounded by the desert and Al Hajar Mountains, Hazbar explores the inherent beauty of rocks and stone. The installation stems from her Lithic light collection which was inspired by the folktale ‘Kahf al Daba’ or ‘The Creature’s Cave’, set in Al Nahwa village. A mythical creature would throw rocks at the villagers to keep them away from its cave. In the story, the creature was vanquished, but the legend remained. Rocks from the village, around the mountain chains between Khor Fakan and Fujairah are juxtaposed against malleable candle wax deposits that change volume and form every time a candle is lit. The time factor, the position of each rock slice and the wax all contribute to this ever-evolving work wherein the delicate veins of melting wax intermingle with the unimpeachable veins of the stone.


The installation embraces the stoic fluidity of the desert. Sand is the core material of the installation designed as a series of lamps that draw the onlooker with their ember like glow. “Sand, whether it’s wet or dry is very compelling and given our memories of building sandcastles, is a very intimate material for most” she says. In presenting a familiar material anew, she implored the audience to closely inspect the material, ponder its behaviour and its endless potential. A second installation of the work explored the nomadic qualities of sand. As it blows in the desert, here too, sand’s ability to migrate and reconstruct confirmed its adaptive qualities. “The series is part of my ongoing research into solidifying sand,” says the designer. “Each pod is composed of multiple layers of sand, so each is unique within the similarities.”


A study of the traditional processes of fishing on the sea were the starting point for this installation that holds promise of a new materiality and a new way to construct. “I saw a fisherman clearing the debris off his net at the Sharjah beach,” recalls Hazbar. “It was a mix of oceanic materials that came along with the fish. Seaweed, bones, corals and barnacles — they would deposit on the net and needed to be cleared before the fisherman could cast it again.” Hazbar convinced the fishermen to leave the dome-like net in the sea for two weeks at time, drying them on land in between cycles. Over time, the accumulated solids were spellbinding. Like barnacles, the deposits had taken over the net, covering it in layers upon layers of sea material that seemed to have grown organically over the mesh. The sea had shown itself — in a solid form — on the net. This net was no longer diaphanous — it was firm. The transformation was complete.