Design Days Dubai: Urban Commissions 2015

Meet the designer behind the 'Boomerang Bench' on show in Dubai

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Competition winner Anna Szonyi tells us about her Boomerang Bench design and what she’s looking forward to during Art Season.

The Design Days Dubai Urban Commissions competition launched this year, challenging residents of the UAE to design a ‘public urban seating installation’ that fulfilled the basic function of seating in a public area. This year’s winner is Hungarian architect and furniture designer Anna Szonyi. A seven-year resident of Dubai, her design, the Boomerang Bench, is an interactive and functional piece of outdoor furniture constructed from moveable teak boomerangs. With the aim of beginning to create something of a design legacy for the city, the winning submission has been entirely manufactured in the UAE and will be installed at Dubai Design District following its exhibition at Design Days.

First of all, how did it feel to win the competition?
At first, I couldn’t believe it. Normally I don’t really enter any competitions and when I learned I was one of the finalists I was already so happy to have achieved that. Then when I found out that I had won I thought it was one of the best things that has ever happened in my professional life. You can have accomplishments in your work or your job, but to win something that everyone in your field – or lots of people at least – have applied to… I felt that, okay, this is a sign that I have chosen the correct profession! It was great, I’m still digesting it.

How did you first find out about the Urban Commissions project?
Coming from an artistic background, I’m always interested in any exhibitions or fairs that are happening in the city – whatever is happening, I’m there. I’m always trying to explore and I’m happy to see that there are more and more exhibitions now and more and more artistic movements, so I’m subscribed to most of the mailing lists for Design Days and Art Dubai, and I received an email about the competition.

What was involved in the application process?
There was a basic brief to design a piece of external seating furniture, a bench, but it was quite an open brief, there was nothing specific other than the design had to function as a seat. I had to submit five A3 pages describing the design idea and upload it to the design days Dubai website.

Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind your design?
Cities are always changing. Especially Dubai – it’s never the same. You always see the changes happening, but you don’t always see or experience the city the way that it is in pictures because it’s never static – it’s always changing and always different. So I tried to create an object that reflected this and is also changing. I also thought about time-lapse images of the cities and I tried to bring that concept into the bench.

And your design is also very interactive, how does that work?
It’s a sequence of movement, basically. The idea is one element, which is a boomerang shape, and all those pieces are arranged on a linear spine, moving around it in various positions. The size of the bench that will be produced is 3.6 metres long, but as a concept it could be any size, because it’s an infinity of these shapes. You can make it smaller or bigger and the idea is that it’s interactive with the environment and that the users can change it as well. So, this movement and change is the basic concept behind it. It’s going to be fabricated from teak wood and steel. The structure will be steel and the boomerangs will be teak.

As a designer, are there any artists, designers or design movements that particularly influence or inspire your work?
I actually really like conceptual art, and I’m interested in the various movements of design and art that are very much focused on all the senses – not only the visual but also sound, taste or touch. I really like Olafur Eliasson as an artist. I’m also really inspired by the work of Antal Lakner. His work is all about a conceptual idea being translated into a physical object. It’s all about experimentation and it’s about more than the visual expression of an object or piece of art because it’s about the use of all the senses and time as well. His work was very interesting to me when I was doing my final year project at university, I was trying to create something that would merge contemporary and conceptual art with architecture.

Olafur Eliasson will be exhibiting at Design Days; is there anything else you’re particularly looking forward to this Art Season?
I’m looking forward to everything! But obviously I’m most excited for Design Days. I have been to most of the seasons, and they are great because it feels that the city is getting elevated more and more to an international level of culture and art. When I learned about this competition, I was really happy that something like this has started in Dubai. All of these exhibitions are exciting and I’m really glad I can be part of them.
The Boomerang Bench will be on display at Design Days Dubai from March 16-20. For more information visit www.boomerangbench.com.

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