Hajar Design Studio applies a fresh, contemporary twist to the traditions and narratives of its native Emirati culture
Combining ancient and modern, east and west, and aesthetic and commercial ways of thinking into product design is no easy challenge. Yet Hajar Al Tenaji is perhaps perfectly placed to do so. Her company, Hajar Design Studio, is based in Abu Dhabi, a thriving economic hub that serves as a gateway between western and eastern worlds.
“I want to bring this culture to life in a very modern and contemporary way,” says Hajar, “and to tell stories about our traditions.” Hajar Design Studio has a diverse portfolio of pieces, ranging from large-scale installations to beautifully wrought products, such as bookends inspired by Arabian horses and perfume bottles shaped like Abu Dhabi landmarks. These are functional objects that are also works of creation in their own right.
Hajar has worked in design for more than 15 years and is excited by the design opportunities available in the United Arab Emirates. “Our country is very young and growing rapidly,” she says. “There are opportunities here for local designers, but for people in lots of different disciplines and industries all over the world. We’re in a strategic position between east and west.” Hajar’s designs also draw from native Emirati culture. Locally sourced pearls are woven into a limited-edition product showcasing Hajar Design Studio’s commitment towards local traditions and craftsmanship. The pearling industry makes a significant contribution to the country’s GDP, and the design piece reflected its importance to the country, both past and present.
Hajar works with a small team of three, but there are often opportunities to collaborate on specific projects. A commission from a Chinese delegation to Expo 2020, which was held in the region, offered the chance to create a gift for delegates that encapsulated the spirit of both nations.
Behind every one of Hajar Design Studio’s creations is a commitment to the Bauhaus ideal that all functional items should be produced with artistic vision and a highly honed skill. “We want to create a seamless synergy of functional perfection and aesthetic beauty, where design gives meaning beyond function and makes it eternal,” says Hajar. “We focus on building links between manufacturers and other talents, because I believe that the wider the circle is, the richer the stories and the experience will be.”