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The three benches presented at Dubai Design Week 2020 were Wahda Bench by Hamad Khoory, Jalees Bench by Aljoud Lootah and the POP UP Bench by Khalid Shafar.
Emirati designers Aljoud Lootah, Khalid Shafar and Hamad Khoory and their teams were invited by the American Hardwood Export Council to design and develop a hardwood bench for outdoor use in a public space. The brief set that the bench must be designed in such a way that people who sit on it are forced to separate by the current social distancing minimum of 2 meters. This negates the need for warning signs and allows for people to sit in a relaxed way, without having to think about whether they are too close to the next person.
The design of the benches also accommodates more people, closer together, as and when the time comes for social distancing rules to be relaxed. This will help to ensure that the benches retain a legacy as functional public seating in the future.
The Jalees Bench by Emirati designer
The thought process behind Wahda’s design, is to express the current impact of COVID-19, where social distancing is required in both external and internal spaces.
Inspired by the traditional Majlis with its inherent values of humility, equality and community, the bench is an exploration of connection and separation. Employing thermally-modified hard maple wood in cuboid modular units of seat, tree, planter and sanitization, modules engage with a linear comb-like base, slipping into and out of the comb, with many possible configurations.
The bench is therefore an expression of Community and Disunity, the separated seat modules slipping out of the base then slipping back when the social distancing measures of the Covid-19 pandemic are no longer required, resulting in the final bench form.