For the 7th edition of the Van Cleef& Arpels Middle East Emergent Designer Prize, inpartnership with Tashkeel, Aezad Muzaffar Alam’s winning design used his concept,Fragments of the desert garden, to address the theme of flora and fused delicate aestheticswith functionality. Words by Katherine Volk
For Aezad Muzaffar Alam, who has a background in architecture, a chair was not a natural starting point. However, the opportunity encouraged the application of similar principles to design at a micro level, with user experience at the forefront. “Design is about sharing experiences where the aim is to create lasting memories,” he explains. “I did not want to propose a chair, but rather a playful object that invites users to interact with it.”
The repetition of floral motifs in traditional Arabic ornamentation and architecture inspired Alam, as they “create an integrated visual language, which led me to devise an object that celebrates assemblage with petal-shaped frames supporting one another to form a whole.” Although patterns and ornamentation are usually seen as purely decorative details, Alam uses them to create the structure as a “new age hybrid design” that offers function from something previously functionless. “While the design for the lounge chair was driven by ergonomics, the form emerged from an artistic response to the theme,”
Alam confirms. Wood and rattan form the structure of the chair, made up of overlapping petals that invite the user to sit in the centre of the floral arrangement, as the layers highlight the importance ofcollective support rather than as a singular piece. Alam says that he “always imagined the final piece to be fabricated from natural wood because it offers warmth and the material ages well over time.” Equally, he always had a careful eye on how the various materials might sit sympathetically with each other and form a coherent and rewarding ensemble:
“For the infill, I utilised rattan material that visually complements the oak wood and the perforations allow light to spill through, creating a play of light and shadow.” Alam’s winning design achieves simplicity from ornamentation, creating playful stability at a time when the world needs it most. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Sharjah in 2010, Alam has since worked on large-scale schemes in the Middle East and North Africa and is the founder and project architect of Reform Studio, based in Dubai.
As the winner of this year’s prize, he was awarded AED 30,000 (USD 8170) to cover the cost of materials and the production of his design, as well as the opportunity to travel to Paris to spend a week at L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts, supported by Van Cleef and Arpels. His winning design is currently exhibited at Les Salons Van Cleef& Arpels at the Dubai Opera boutique.