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Courtesy of Tashkeel © Photographed by Daniella Baptista
SARA FARHA & KHALED SHALKHA
SARA FARHA

Sara Farha is an architect, urban planner, and research-based artist. Passionate about material science, Farha creates art and design that responds to local needs, sensibilities, and the environment. Interested in regional histories of cinema, food systems, and architecture, she believes in the strength and capability of interdisciplinary design and its potential to solve real-world problems.

In November 2022, Farha co-founded Datecrete, the world’s first date-pit based cement. The novel material continues to be a core part of her practice: placing high importance on materiality, rejecting the detachedness of some current art and design practices. In March 2023, Farha debuted her first body of work, a series of Datecrete sculptures, as part of the group show ‘Getting Over the Color Green’ at Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai.

KHALED SHALKHA

Khaled Shalkha is a multidisciplinary artist and designer from an engineering background. A graduate of the American University of Sharjah, he is keen to explore novel materials and develop scale-up strategies for them. Problem-solving at the intersection of culture, economy, and policy, he advocates the constant questioning of the status quo. Khaled grew up in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, which continues as a central theme in his work. A practicing chemical engineer, he is currently studying for a Master’s in Energy and Sustainability Policy.

Courtesy of Tashkeel © Photographed by Jalal Abuthina at Reframe Photography Services
Courtesy of Tashkeel © Photographed by Jalal Abuthina at Reframe Photography Services
STATEMENT

The UAE produces 750,000 tonnes of dates annually (14 percent of the global output). Nationally and internationally, the fruit is consumed in its raw form but together with its seed, it is used in the manufacturing of sweeteners, coffee powders, medicinal pastes and cosmetics. Coupled with coffee, the date is a symbol of hospitality and prosperity and adorns the table of homes and businesses across the MENA region.

Focusing on the by-product of date stoning, Sara Abu Farha and Khaled Shalkha embarked on an investigation to understand the design capabilities of the humble date seed. The design duo studied vernacular building methods across the MENASA region before setting out to identify a sustainable and low-cost process to convert raw date seeds into a cementitious design material using their home as a laboratory. The resulting material utilizes the seeds\’ mechanical properties. Datecrete possesses both a smooth texture and a cultural relevance that has the potential to serve as a local alternative to Portland cement.

Academic researchers in Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan and Libya have investigated the application of date palm seeds as a suitable filler material in glass–epoxy composites as well as a coarse aggregate in concrete production (as an alternative to stone). What makes Sara Abu Farha and Khaled Shalkha’s outcome stand out is that they claim to have developed the world’s first date seed-based cementitious material with no trace of concrete or resin. Datecrete was first developed during Sara and Khaled's participation in Tashkeel's Tanween program.

Courtesy of Tashkeel © Photographed by Jalal Abuthina at Reframe Photography Services
Courtesy of Tashkeel © Photographed by Jalal Abuthina at Reframe Photography Services
DESIGN PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS

Tanween 2022

January 8 (2022) — December 11 (2022)

Tashkeel Studio

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Year of Sustainability 2023

May 16 (2023) - October 30 (2023)

Year of Sustainability Material Lab

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Courtesy of Tashkeel © Photographed by Jalal Abuthina at Reframe Photography Services
EXHIBITIONS

2024


Crystal Clear

February 3 (2024) - May 11 (2024)

Group show; part of Sara Bokr's installation

Bayt AlMamzar

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2023


Getting Over the Color Green

March 14 (2023) - March 22 (2023)

Group show

Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

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RETHINK

September 20 (2023) - September 23 (2023)

Group show, Material Matters, London Design Festival

Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf

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November 7 (2023) - November 12 (2023)

Group show

Dubai Design Week

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2022


Tanween 2022

January 8 (2022) — December 11 (2022)

Group show

Downtown Design (Dubai Design Week), Dubai

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The Agency of Nature

November 1 (2022) — November 24 (2022)

Group show

Tashkeel Studio, Dubai

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TALKS & WORKSHOPS

Talk: Alserkal QCZ PechaKucha

November 12, 2022

The Courtyard, Dubai

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Sustainble Startups (hosted by Founders Academy)

March 13, 2023

Carlton Downtown Hotel, Dubai

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Crit session: Led by Moza Almatrooshi and Mahnaz Fancy

March 19, 2023

Alserkal Avenue

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Talk: Change-Makers Hub - Presented by VCA

December 5, 2023

ICD Brookfield Place, Level 1

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Talk: Today at Apple - Adopting Sustainable Materials

April 25, 2024

Apple Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi

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NEWS

Deezen: "Datecrete" furniture featured in showcase of UAE emerging designers at Dubai Design Week

Five designs were included in this year's edition that focused on innovative materials, such as a chunky console table attached to a rectilinear mirror by architect Sara Abu Farha and engineer Khaled Shalka...

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FT: Modern alchemists: the furniture makers to watch in 2023

At the cutting edge of research are the makers repurposing natural detritus: architect Sara Abu Farha and engineer Khaled Shalkha turn surplus, UAE-sourced dates into a material called “datecrete” for their minimalist furniture, showcased at last year’s Dubai Design Week...

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YUNG: UAE-Based Couple Launch Datecrete

Now, Sara Abou Farha, an architect and town planner, and her husband Khaled Shalka, an engineer, are focusing on the by-product of date stoning, to create the first date seed cement, Datecrete, and have also created the first table made using date seed...

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Cyril Zammit: Tanween by Tashkeel unveils its 2022 Collection

Datecrete Console 0.1. by architect/urban planner and chemical engineer Sara Abu Farha & Khaled Shalkha (Sharjah) - a console using the world’s first date seed-based cementitious material with no trace of concrete or resin...

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AD Middle East: New Arab Voices - Datecrete by Sara Abu Farha and Khaled Shalkha Is a Sustainable Twist on Building Materials in the UAE

Connecting the dots between science, design and culture, the eco-architect-couple hopes to reduce the carbon footprint of the local construction industry by creating concrete from the agricultural waste of date farming

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