Cover Story

Sitting pretty

June 24 - 30 , 2020

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Sitting pretty

A table and chair challenge has been set up to get the creative juices flowing amongst the kingdom’s artists, designers and architects.

Reinventing one of the staple sets of furniture is the brainchild of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA).

The Table & Chair contest features three categories. Participants can choose to design a chair, a table or both, and can enter as an individual or as a collaboration.

Shouq AlAlawi, head of visual arts and curator, said: “We thought of reaching out to a wider audience by proposing a design competition and we chose the table and chair as the design object because these two pieces have the greatest capacity to be reinvented.

“This competition aims to explore possible table and chair designs as well as to understand aesthetic and functional qualities of works of art and design.

“We hope to keep the design community engaged and connected and encourage designers – be it young aspiring ones, amateurs or professionals – to push their boundaries and explore the potential and versatility of these two objects.”

BACA seeks to make the competition an annual event as part of the Art Centre’s programme aimed to enrich the artistic scene in Bahrain through a series of different events and exhibitions held for artists settled in Bahrain and elsewhere.

“This initiative could also encourage collaborations between artists and designers,” added Shouq. “Previous collaborations, such as artists with chefs or artists with musicians in our Food is Culture Festival, have proved to be successful and are very popular among the artists’ community themselves and appeal to a wider range of audience.”

Participants should include a statement of the different steps of design phases, details of research carried out and data collection, as well as the development of the design. It should also include initial drawings, manuscripts and detailed graphics, 3D drawings and the raw materials used, attached with the sizes and dimensions. 

Entrants are invited to send a design stereotype model, not exceeding 15x15x15cm, to the Art Centre.

BACA is encouraging contestants to concentrate on the notions of creativity; sustainability and diversity while designing as well as adopting recycling and upcycling principles.

“There is no limit for inspiration; we encourage the participants to think outside the box,” said Shouq. “By taking into consideration form, function and ergonomics, we encourage more innovative, sustainable and versatile submissions. Everyone is now exposed to many influences from all over the world; it would be interesting to see the outcome of their thinking process. Recycling and upcycling are encouraged.”

Shouq advises to match the aesthetics to functionality when designing and that if the product cannot be used then it serves no purpose. She believes that sustainable designs are always popular.

She also suggests that participants invest the time to conduct research and set their design goals before they start the work. Competitors can also ask for feedback on their proposals before submitting them, however, submissions should reflect research, data collected and extermination of project ideas.

She added: “This is an opportunity for designers to build their portfolio and enhance their critical thinking abilities.

“Table & Chair as a competition can set the way for participants and those interested to cover other areas in the field of design - be it furniture design, fabrics and motives, or interior design. Both the table and chair are very neutral objects.

“The prototype is as important as the written proposal. I suggest contestants spend time working on their prototypes and make sure they are to scale and reflect their designs.”

An approval and arbitration committee will examine all entries, a shortlist will be exhibited at the Art Centre and a visual version of this exhibition will be featured on BACA’s website. The prizes will be announced shortly.

“We have faith in the younger generation of designers,” said Shouq. “We believe they will be able to show us unique designs and proposals.”

Participants may pick up some useful tips from award-winning Anastasia Nysten, who was featured in GulfWeekly. She grew up in Finland, France and Lebanon and believes her cultural mix and working experience in the Gulf region help create a mind made for interior designs with a difference.

Anastasia’s Troll chair won several accolades including the Talent Award at both the Beirut Design Expo and the Maison & Objet major French trade fair for interior design. “It was primarily conceived for generous comfort,” she told GulfWeekly. “The idea was to revisit comfortable seating – a lounge chair combining structure with the comfort of a bean bag.”

Bahrain’s creatives could soon be sitting pretty too with a winning design of their own.

For further details on the competition, please contact BACA on 17298745, email or follow @culturebah on Instagram.

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