Sabeel 2021 | Invitation to Re-imagine the Drinking Fountain of the Future

A major new initiative by Expo 2020 Dubai enabling UAE-based creatives to reimagine the drinking fountain for the future!

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Invitation to Re-imagine the Drinking Fountain of the Future

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  • Sabeel 2021 is an initiative by Expo 2021 Dubai in collaboration with Art Jameel that engages creatives in imagining a new design icon for the UAE 
  • Drawing on the Expo 2021 subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, Sabeel 2021 will produce uniquely- and innovatively-designed drinking fountains for the Expo 2021 Dubai site and its legacy 
  • The neighbourhood drinking fountain is a visual marker for the UAE, reflecting the country’s heritage and spirit of hospitality, tolerance and generosity 
  • UAE-based designers, architects, artists and creatives – or those abroad with strong connections to the UAE – are invited to submit their designs via an open call, launched today, with a deadline of August 31, 2021 
  • An internationally renowned jury will select and award up to three winning designs 
  • A sabeel is a community drinking fountain that provides relief to passers-by and travellers, and that symbolises our collective humanity

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates | July 8, 2021 Art Jameel, an organisation that supports heritage, education and the arts, today announces an open call for proposals to Sabeel 2021, an Expo 2021 Dubai initiative. Designers, architects, artists and other UAE-based creatives, plus international practitioners with a strong connection to the UAE, are invited to submit designs for innovative drinking fountains, inspired by the tradition and spirit of the sabeel

An internationally renowned jury will select a winning design(s), to be mass-produced for the Expo 2021 site and its legacy. A sabeel is a neighbourhood kiosk or fountain where water is dispensed to travellers and passers-by, at crossroads, in city squares and outside mosques. 

Drawing from the Expo 2021 Dubai theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, and its subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, Sabeel 2021 is an opportunity for UAE-based creatives to design a new icon, one that is set to be a key feature of Expo 2021 and its legacy. The winning design – a new sabeel for 2021 and beyond – will enable visitors to Expo 2021 to access fresh drinking water. The project serves to remind us of the nature of water as a shared precious resource. 

Up to three winning designs will be selected by the appointed jury, with Expo 2021 offering AED 100,000 in prize money to each winner. The winner(s) will see their fountain design developed and reproduced across the Expo 2021 district (with more than 45 fountains set to feature on site). Registration for the open call opens today and closes on August 31, 2019

The esteemed jury, set with the task of selecting the winning design(s), includes: Asif Khan MBE, the London-based key architect of the arrival plazas and concourses in Expo 2021’s public realm; Christopher Turner, Keeper of Design, Architecture and Digital at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Hani Asfour, Dean at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), Dubai Design District; Manal Ataya, Director General, Sharjah Museums Authority; Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer at Expo 2021 Dubai; Nasser Abulhasan, Principal at Kuwait- and Spain-based AGi architects; and Shumon Basar, a Dubai- and Berlin-based writer and curator. 

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Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer, Expo 2021 Dubai, said: “Water is one of our most precious resources and the traditional sabeel water fountains are key features of the UAE’s public spaces, reflecting the important role that shared water sources play in the prosperity and connection of our communities. The fountains provide a source of comfort for passers-by, especially during hot weather conditions. 

“Sabeel 2021 is an exciting initiative that is bringing this feature to the Expo 2021 site by inviting the UAE’s creative community to reimagine the traditional sabeel. Through this initiative we aim to show our visitors an important part of our culture and heritage, while at the same time honouring our shared humanity.” 

Sabeel 2021 was devised to create a universally recognisable symbol for the UAE that is representative of its rich history of hospitality, tolerance and generosity. Visitors to Expo 2021 from both the UAE and abroad should be able to recognise the Sabeel 2021 fountains for their emblematic design and nature. 

Fady Mohammed Jameel, Chairman and Founder of Art Jameel, said: “Art Jameel is delighted to collaborate with Expo 2021 Dubai in a curatorial capacity to realise this dynamic project – a major opportunity for UAE-based designers, architects and artists that also creates a moment of reflection on one of the key concerns of our time. From the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab at MIT through to the positioning of Jameel Arts Centre on the Dubai Creek, an interest in, respect and concern for water flows through our global philanthropy programme.” 

Art Jameel is serving in a curatorial and project management capacity for this initiative. Interested applicants can access the Sabeel 2021 brief here and the online application form here

Alongside this open call competition aimed at designers, architects and creatives, the Sabeel 2021 programme also includes three commissioned public sculptures that act as drinking fountains, created by UAE-based artists; the selected artists and their works will be announced alongside the competition winners in November 2021. 

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