Art Jameel Hosts Sustainability Pavilion Amid Contested Climate Summit
By Anna Lentchner
*This article was updated on November 30
On December 7, the cultural organization Art Jameel will open a temporary pavilion installation named Tarabot: Weaving a Living Forum in Dubai, in parallel to the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties (COP28). Located on the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park outside the Jameel Arts Centre, Tarabot is designed by theOtherDada, a regenerative architecture and consultancy firm based in Beirut, and will accommodate talks, presentations, workshops, and community programs during and after COP28.
The architectural design for Tarabot takes inspiration from four ecological pillars: soil, water, plants, and energy. Its modular dome was constructed using local and sustainable materials such as clay, mycelium, date-palm waste, and upcycled fabric; it was conceived as an “interspecies ecotone,” a shared space between humans and other species. The pavilion’s interior hosts artworks by Solimar Miller, a multidisciplinary artist based in Dubai whose practice highlights indigenous plants and animals to emphasize the importance of preserving natural landscapes. When the structure is deinstalled in May 2024, its components will be repurposed for domestic farming and for an underwater habitat, highlighting the structure’s ecological synergy.
Adib Dada, the architect and founder of theOtherDada, explained: “By reintegrating our place within nature, we are able to offer a shared forum for humans and other organisms to thrive in the city. ‘Tarabot,’ which means ‘to weave together,’ offers a shared space for humans and other organisms to come together as interdependent equals, sharing food, water, and habitat.”
Running until December 12, COP28 is hosting world leaders in Dubai to discuss the—largely insufficient—progress of the Paris Agreement, an international climate treaty adopted by the United Nations in 2015. This year, Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, will preside over the conference, a move that prominent climate activist and conservationist Winnie Cheche compared to “leaving a lion in charge of protecting antelopes.” Adding to the cloud of skepticism over the event’s integrity, on November 27, the BBC published leaked documents that revealed the United Arab Emirates had plans to use COP28 as an opportunity to broker fossil-fuel deals with global representatives.
As one of the few regional institutions to spotlight sustainability discourse in its charter and programs, Art Jameel launched the initiative at a pertinent time. In a press release, Art Jameel director Antonia Carver said the project demonstrates the organization’s “long-term approach to foregrounding the role of the arts in addressing the climate crisis.” She went on to describe how Art Jameel plans to establish international collaborations, grant programs, and a “regional network of arts leaders and ecologists, with whom we are collectively publishing (in time for COP) bilingual sustainability charters and toolkits for the Middle East.”
Art Jameel was established in 2003 as part of the Jameel family’s long-running philanthropic organization Community Jameel, and supports a range of artistic and cultural initiatives to support contemporary and heritage preservation in the region. Commissioned by Art Jameel, the pavilion is funded by the Abdul Latif Jameel Company, a family-owned, Saudi megaconglomerate that beginning in the 1950s dealt mostly in automobiles and automotive accessories, manufacturing, and transportation. Since the 2000s, the company has diversified into the renewable energy and water-accessibility sectors, including building wind and solar projects, as well as desalination and waste-water treatment plants.
Anna Lentchner is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.