Massimo Imparato for “Local Cultures in Global Settings”

Massimo Imparato,


Porcelain Tile,

Interior Design, Event,

“Local Cultures in Global Settings” is an international contest promoted by the Iris Ceramica Group and its associated Foundation and organised by UAE Modern, drawing attention to creative contributions arising out of the interaction between expressions of identity and universalistic culture. We talked about it with Massimo Imparato, who, with Monica Mazzolani, co-founded UAE Modern, the cultural hub presenting the series of events accompanying the competition.

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Massimo Imparato for “Local Cultures in Global Settings”
Who could be better qualified than Massimo Imparato, who co-founded UAE Modern with Monica Mazzolani in 2017, to explain the reason for the choice of Dubai and the importance of the Arab Emirates’ modern legacy in addition to their history? Dubai is a living laboratory in which more than two hundred communities are contributing to the forging of a new globalised identity, challenging the stereotype of Dubai as a place with no context. With a population of 3.5 million, Dubai is the biggest city in the UAE, providing the ideal context for the international strong>“Local Cultures in Global Settings” contest and an important opportunity to reconsider the relationship among culture, nature and technology. 
UAE Modern is a non-profit organisation established to draw attention to the intriguing experiments in modern architecture that took place in the Emirates between the 70s and the 90s - when new wealth was generated by the country's oilfields - responding to a drive toward growth that became even more urgent following the establishment of the UAE in 1971, when it became essential to have all the roads, infrastructure and public buildings required to set up a modern state: government ministries, schools, hospitals, barracks, train stations. At that time it was expensive to maintain comfort in buildings using mechanical systems, and a number of good designers created architectures capable of responding to the local climate through their orientation and the design of their cladding and windows. These projects, often neglected in favour of vernacular architecture, represented the ambitions of a community that was emerging on the international scene for the first time with a modernism characterised by strong local connotations. In the second decade following the turn of the millennium, notes Imparato, a new attitude emerged, the result of research conducted in the universities and growing awareness of the role of conservation in constructing a national identity, as demonstrated by the Emirates’ participation in the Architecture Exhibition at Biennale di Venezia, which drew attention on its most recent past with a new focus on the values of modernity.
„We realised that the advances in research into these areas was proceeding on parallel levels, that the guidelines for conservation of modern architecture implemented by the DCT in Abu Dhabi, research into heritage conducted by the Dubai Municipality, and other important studies conducted by universities and research centres had not yet had an opportunity to be systematically implemented. UAE Modern became the place where all this came together, at the first event organised during Design Week in 2017, focusing on issues in Modern Heritage.“ The UAE Modern project was soon expanded to embrace broader issues relating to sustainability as an essential aspect of conservation, to establish opportunities for the general public to participate in discussion of experiences and projects which are the fruit of a regenerative culture capable of offering systematic responses to the challenges of the environment, society, climate, energy and nutrition. Dubai Design Week has accompanied the project’s evolution, confirming the Emirates’ vocation for supporting innovation and the need to ask ourselves questions about the connections between past, present and future.
The Iris Ceramica Group’s interest in the area, where the Group’s companies work with great success, expresses the need to understand how the local and global dimensions can now not only coexist, but generate value and new meaning. This kind of approach comes naturally to a group with strong local roots, not only in Fiorano Modenese, in Italy’s Emilia region, but in all the other places where the Group operates its production plants.
Dubai, which has one inhabitant of local origin for every ten expatriate workers, offers an extraordinary glimpse into the challenge of the multiculturality, which is an increasingly important aspect of the future of individuals, households and communities striving to improve their living conditions. “Local Cultures in Global Settings” places its bets on the ability to release the creative energy that Lidewij Edelkoort made the focus of her presentation at the contest launch in Milan during Design Week in April: the post-post-colonial emancipation from the global mainstream that is spontaneously occurring in so many different places, through new forms of enterprise, design, architecture and fashion. Communities, even the smallest and most remote, are once again playing a central role.
The contest offers participants an opportunity to ask themselves questions and express the relationship between local identity and global context in a pattern, considering, as Imparato points out, that „a pattern is a palimpsest on which to construct the weave of one’s cultural identity“, as demonstrated by numerous ancient societies and cultures. The design challenge is not for ceramists only, but is open to graphic artists, architects, designers, and all creative artists wishing to measure themselves against one of the great issues of our time, proposing solutions that create new meanings thanks to the interaction between values and technical content. The result of the competition will then become a tangible slab, the pattern of our future.
Contest registration is open until 31 July 2023. Complete information is available on the contest website.

Christiane Bürklein



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