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First constructed in 1955 by modernist architect Mahmoud Riad, the renovation of the Arab League Hall by international designer Nada Debs, marks the beginning of a new era in design, dialogue and unity amongst the Arab states.

Commissioned and funded by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE, the renovation which began in 2015, aimed at modernising traditional elements while maintaining the essence of a distinctive Middle Eastern identity. “My take was to create an environment that is contemporary and peaceful, but still relevant to our Arab culture and identity, in order to enhance unity and progressive thinking,” says Nada Debs of the four-year project which was unveiled at the 153rd meeting of the Council of Arab Foreign Ministers in March 2020.

Selected for her ability to transform, elevate and create contemporary objects and spaces that knead narratives around communities and cultures, Nada’s approach focuses on her pioneering work as a craft custodian where she creates a timeless appeal by safe-guarding craft legacies and making them relevant to future generations through a signature design approach. “The idea was to breed new life into the traditional craft, and I used prevalent Middle Eastern geometric design, interspersed through different mediums and a harmonic repetition to replicate a sense of coherence and unity,” says Nada.

Restoring and strengthening the inherent Arab identity, Nada preserved historically relevant features of the place such as the scriptures above the main stage, the wooden wall panels, and the central circle of the hall which is now accentuated with a rhombus selected for its relevance to Islamic architecture and its intrinsic connection to the Middle East region as a symbolic element that unifies all Arab states.

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