Studio Niko Kapa based in Dubai recently unveiled a collection of homeware, office and decorative products. These draw inspiration from the natural landscapes of AlUla in Saudi Arabia. The designers were especially influenced by AlUla’s rich history, archeology and natural environment. Through these influences, the mass-produced objects resemble artifacts with unique, handmade qualities. The products in this range include desk organizers, bowls and valet trays with organic, sculptural forms.
The AlUla region includes UNESCO world heritage sites like Hegra and Dadan, which were capitals of two ancient Arabian Kingdoms. The area’s geography is made up of desert dunes, sandstone mountains and volcanic landscapes. These undulating, kinetic landscapes and traditional Arabian craftsmanship were extensively researched to develop the AlUla artifacts. These socio-cultural and environmental-inspired elements merge with contemporary design for a timeless, vernacular appeal. The designers also meticulously blend aesthetics with function for an elegant, versatile product collection.
Through extensive material research, and to pay further homage to AlUla, the main object materiality is sand. The sand is held together with AshCrete. This is especially environmentally friendly as AshCrete is made from 97% fly ash, which utilizes waste materials and replaces most of the energy-intensive components used to produce traditional concrete. Additionally, the material incorporates recycled concrete and ceramics to further enhance sustainability.
The manufacturing of these objects is another key feature of the design process that lessens the project’s environmental impact. Instead of mining for natural resources and utilizing an energy-intensive process, the AlUla artifacts use the site’s abundant desert sand and other waste materials. By using locally-sourced materials and recycling waste from other production processes, transport and raw material costs are minimized and the collection’s carbon footprint drops. Moreover, since the manufacturing process does not require technical expertise or specialized mechanical equipment, workmanship and labor costs are reduced.
Beyond environmental and economic sustainability, the project’s material research and development also influenced the objects’ appearance. The material’s finish gives the products a stone-like, matte texture that mimics features of the local scenery. Meanwhile, local earth pigments like clay have been used to obtain the collection’s warm, desert-inspired color palette.
In the near future, the artifacts product line will be produced and presented at AlUla’s cultural and retail outlets in Saudi Arabia. The collection will preserve the country’s rich heritage and culture while paying homage to the local geography.
Images via Studio Niko Kapa