In the studio: Hajar Al Tenaiji

We catch up with the Emirati designer on her Al Khayl bookends collection.

31 Jan 2021, words by Aneesha Rai in Design & Architecture

Alkhayl

Our third story on 'In the studio' features Hajar Al Tenaiji of Abu Dhabi-based Hajar Design Studio. She talks to us about her Al Khayl collection of book ends - drawing from her focus on Emirati heritage and finding a meeting point on contemporary trends, functionality & sustainability.

Hajar's design studio specialises in product design and is driven by the Bauhaus ideal that all functional items should be produced and made with artistic vision and highly honed skill. Founded in 2018, Hajar continues to pave the way for Emirati product design in the region. She is focused on integrating the harmonious beauty of natural materials, artisan craftsmanship and sustainable production.

Hajar

Q: What are your thoughts on design culture in the region?

Hajar: I am confident to say that we have one of the most innovative and forward-thinking market. We are blessed to have a healthy and competitive design culture in the region accompanied with a diverse talent pool of design practitioner pushing the boundaries of aesthetics and technology, and in doing so, strengthening our position on the global cultural map. 

 Besides that, the bar of excellence has been set even higher to cater to an increasingly sophisticated market of diverse population that is cosmopolitan, well-travelled, and informed. 

 Design has established itself as a very viable and consistent revenue driver, and this has called for infrastructure and ecosystem development—the design events, design schools and design council that have followed are a testament to that, which ultimately results in the myriad of opportunities for the design firms, architects and designers.

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Images credit: Natelee Cocks photography

Q: What is the scope of improvement in the design culture & landscape in the region?

Hajar: I would like to see more cohesiveness and collaborations between different design clusters and nations to advance our cultural legacy in a collaborative manner. Our cultural crafts have been developed years ago by our predecessors, our role now is to advance these crafts to cater to our contemporary lifestyle and leading the path toward an innovative future.

Alkahyl

Q: What was your inspiration for Al Khayl?

Hajar: The Arabian horse is the oldest pure breed in the world and the father of many breeds. It has remained essentially unchanged throughout the centuries and symbolises the Arabian history. 

The inspiration behind Al Khayl collection was the surreal experience I felt when I started horse riding a few years ago. It is a wonderful sense of therapeutic freedom while riding and it gave me wings to fly that I never had. 

I was captivated by the power of Arabian Horses, their elegance, speed and grace but above all their personality traits which we have to understand to connect with them. Furthermore, it is considered as a source of pride in our culture, and our leaders have carved their names in the equestrian world as champions in endurance riding.

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Q: Any advice for budding Emirati designers looking to break into the scene?

Hajar: A few things I consider as critical components in running my design firm are consistency in delivering value, staying curious and collaborations. While in the process try to be environmentally responsible and finally accept your failures and iterate, iterate, iterate! 

While you’re in the journey, enjoy and cherish the challenges as much as the success. These are the factors that shape us as professionals.

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Image credit: Natelee Cocks

Q: What are you currently working on?

Hajar: Exciting philanthropic projects with forward-thinking clients, who are as passionate as I am to make a positive impact on our communities, no matter the scale. 

Besides that, I am coaching a group of emerging designers and entrepreneurs on their product design projects, which I consider as an inspiring opportunity to join their thinking process to guide them to think collectively the design solution they aspire to achieve.

Horse

Q: Any suggestions to those looking to add a contemporary touch of Emirati history and culture in their homes? 

Hajar: Our culture is beautiful, choose the right elements or pieces that blends well with your home while keeping the essence and personality of your home strong.

Q: What are your top 3 most well-designed spots in Dubai?

Hajar: The beauty of Dubai is that you’ll find the old, the new and the futuristic. There are multiple experiences that you can cherish in different states of minds. I enjoy exploring Al Shindagha Museum in Old Dubai to immerse myself into historical stories and learn more about the culture. A testimony of our culture and resilience is the manner in which Dubai is structured. Another spot to look for is Opus hotel by Zaha Hadid Architects, leaving an indelible mark on Dubai’s architectural landscape. 

The last one is D3 - indeed, this cluster of the creative community is phenomenal.