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AUS graduates turn to furniture design with plans for regional impact
Stretching beyond the boundaries of their formal education in interior design, four graduates from the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS) are branching into furniture design with a view to introduce their products into the local market.
Selected among a group of 10 UAE-based designers, AUS alumnae Rand al Drei, Nourhan Rahhal, Reem Jeghel and Razan Hussein have just completed the Athath Fellowship—a 15-week intensive furniture design program. The program was led by AUS Associate Professor and Director of CAAD Labs Ammar Kalo in collaboration with Makerspace Al Zeina in Abu Dhabi.
As both an AUS-educated architect and internationally acclaimed furniture designer whose works have been acquired by the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, Kalo shared his expertise by guiding the designers through the various stages of furniture design, starting with conceptualization, and ending with making a product that is market-ready.
“There are few public design programs or fellowships in the UAE that offer emerging designers a chance to develop their ideas through funding and other kinds of support. The Athath Fellowship focuses on developing design and fabrication skills while also looking at the business side of things and how to effectively launch a design startup that fills a gap in the current market,” said Kalo.
Kalo believes having more of these post-university training opportunities available for young talents is crucial for creating a sustainable design industry in the UAE and MENA region.
“In my experience, graduates of these courses and programs often start their own businesses, employing other designers and contributing to the economy. They also offer an environment whereby designers can focus on honing their skills and shaping their creative practices,” he said.
AUS students receive a solid foundation in design thinking and practice, engaging in experiential learning in the university’s regionally acclaimed CAAD Labs where they have the freedom to experiment with different materials, methods and equipment. For these four designers, it was this freedom to experiment that inspired them to look to furniture design as a new opportunity to express themselves.
As a culmination of their learning and making during the Athath Fellowship, the designers were each tasked to create a furniture piece that is functional and marketable, and the results promise to impress.
Syrian designer Rand Al-Drei, who has already achieved global acclaim for previous product designs, has created a maker’s table that functions as both a working surface and a coffee table for makers with small spaces. She anticipates this being the first of a series of furniture pieces designed specifically to meet the needs of designers and makers like herself.
Lebanese designer Nourhan Rahhal has created a piece inspired by the research of sociologist Amy Cudd, who argues that posture and body language impact behavior. Rahhal’s designs imitate “power poses” with the intention to empower users to sit with confidence.
Reem Jeghel from Syria is a practicing product designer who has worked with internationally acclaimed designers on various high-end projects. Looking to the future of remote working through a modern and elegant design, she has created a piece that aims to provide the necessities for online work, while incorporating delicate curvatures inspired by the overgrown Monstera plant.
Finally, Razan Hussein from Palestine graduated from AUS only last year and has designed a piece with the fashion-conscious consumer in mind. Her dressing station provides a place to lay out clothes, shoes, make up and accessories in an organized way.
The designers’ work will be exhibited in the Athath Fellowship Showcase at MIZA HQ, Abu Dhabi on March 6 and 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. For full event details visit www.athathfellowship.ae.
For more information about how a degree from the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah helps prepare aspiring designers for a successful career, visit www.aus.edu/caad.