Visitors peer through the hexagonal structures of a Swarovski installation, mesmerised by the kaleidoscopic shimmers reflected off mirrored steel and crystals.
Groups of schoolchildren crowd around booths, listening curiously as exhibitors describe their inventions.
At another contemporary art installation with spinning chairs, amused visitors snap "wefies" as they turn 360 degrees continuously.
Such was the scene for six days in Dubai Design District (d3) during Dubai Design Week, which held its second edition last month, attracting 40,000 visitors to its 150 events all over the city - a 75 per cent increase in attendance from its inaugural edition last year.
Dubai's design ambitions
Dubai's goal to become the design capital of the Middle East, part of its ruler Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum's long-term plan to make the emirate a "smart and sustainable" city, has kicked a series of initiatives into high gear.
Here is what has been done so far.
Alserkal Avenue arts district: In 2007, a cluster of industrial warehouses spread over 500,000 sq ft were converted into concept stores, galleries, food and beverage outlets and arts spaces.
Tashkeel: The contemporary art organisation was founded in 2008 to support the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) creative community through studio facilities, artist residencies, international fellowships and a programme of exhibitions, events and workshops.
Dubai Design Week: The event, which started last year, not only aims to showcase the UAE's developing design scene, but also to be a discovery platform for innovations, skills and talent from around the world.
Dubai Design District: Opened last year, this is a community for enthusiasts and the region's designers to connect and collaborate.
The first phase will be completed by the end of this year with 11 buildings housing more than 10,000 professionals.
Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation: In May, a study highlighted the need for at least 30,000 design graduates by 2019. In October, the establishment of this institute to meet this workforce demand was announced.
Exhibitions include a Global Grad Show, which trebled last year's showcase to 145 projects from universities in 30 countries this year, and there were also shows by more established designers and furniture firms.
Inventions - including at least five projects from Singaporeans - on display include a micro wind turbine to charge devices in harsh weather conditions, a torchlight that also purifies water and an eco-friendly bench that folds like an accordion.
•Grace Ma is a freelance writer.
1) FLEXIBLELOVE FOLDING SEAT
Designed by: FlexibleLove, a Taiwanese furniture company
What is it: The water-resistant honeycomb structure folds flat when not in use and expands into a long bench in various sinuous permutations for up to 16 persons. It is made from eco-friendly materials. With frequent use, the seat’s top edge naturally levels off into a velvety smooth surface.
Where to get it: The bench is available in three colours from US$285 (S$410) at FlexibleLove.com
Designed by: Mr Philippe Hohlfeld, 24, Royal College of Art, London
What is it: A collapsible hydroponic farm system that can grow vegetables inside empty containers during a three- to five-week sea voyage and yield up to one tonne of produce on arrival at its destination.
While doing a project with shipping companies, Mr Hohlfeld noticed a discrepancy between the import and export volumes of ships on Asian routes. “Asia exports a lot, but imports very little. There’re tonnes of empty containers heading back to Asia with nothing but air. We are wasting resources,” says the innovation design engineering master degree graduate.
Where to get it: The search is on for an investor and a shipping firm to allow him to do a trial run on an actual shipping route.
Designed by: Ms Letitia Lim, 23, Ms Poh Hui Qing, 24, and Ms Adriana Justine, 21, National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment
What is it: A collapsible stand made from a single loop of eight triangular panels. It is stain-resistant, water-repellent and weighs between 600g and 900g. Made of polyester and high-density paper, it can hold upto20 times its own weight. It is available in four colours and sizes.
Where to get it: www.allocacocsg.com/collections/all/products/levit8
4) WEARABLE SHELTER
Designed by: Ms Anne Sophie Geay and Ms Gabriella Geagea, both 25, Royal College of Art, London
What is it: A hooded parka-style jacket that can be converted into a sleeping bag big enough for a parent and a child, or into a tent for four. The jacket is made of Tyvek, a lightweight but durable waterproof material.
The objective was to make a cheap and sustainable garment-shelter for the refugees streaming into the European Union. It also has large pockets for passports, money and other important documents.
Ms Geagea says: “While our tent isn’t going to solve all the refugee problems, I wanted to help with what I know best and use design to present a solution.”
Where to get it: The duo are looking for manufacturing partners and investors for the project
5) FRUIT LEATHER
Designed by: Ms Muriel Kai, 22, from Lebanon
What is it: These 100 per cent organic containers, designed in response to Lebanon’s massive waste crisis last year, are made of fruit leather. The material is made by grinding and drying peels from fruit and vegetables such as apples,beetroots and mangoes, before turning them into a paste.
It is then moulded and cooked to create items such as tealight holders and jewellery boxes. They are priced between US$50(S$70) and US$500.
Where to get it: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org