For the upcoming edition of Dubai Design Week, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is collaborating with three local designers and their teams to design and develop: ‘Please Sit Here’.

A seating project in the form of benches for outdoor use in a public space that allows people who sit on it are 2 meters apart following the current mandatory requirement of physical distancing, but also can also be converted to accommodate more people, closer together, as and when the time comes for distancing regulations to be relaxed. This will ensure that the benches retain a legacy as functional public seating in the future.

The idea behind ‘Please sit here’ is conceived as a response to the behavioural change brought about by the pandemic especially in regards to physical or ‘social distancing’, coined to reference the space we need to leave between each other, effecting and dominating the way we live, interact and the decisions we make. While incredibly important in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 – this project aims to tackle the difficulty in adapting to regulations that inhibit normal social behaviour that does not come naturally to people, that are social by nature.

The project draws inspiration from AHEC’s many ambitious collaborations to date with multiple design teams, imaginative briefs, innovative designs and the very best of wood craftsmanship - around the world including the UAE, Europe, Australia and South Africa. For over 30 years the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has been at the forefront of international wood promotion, successfully building a distinctive and creative brand for U.S. hardwoods by demonstrating the performance and aesthetic potential of these sustainable materials, while providing valuable creative inspiration and technical advice.

AHEC has asked each designer to select from three U.S. hardwood species, which are red oak, soft maple and tulipwood. Together, these three species account for nearly 40% of the eastern hardwood forests of the USA, one of the largest and most sustainable hardwood resources in the world.

Because these benches will be for outdoor use, the wood will be thermally-modified. This is a non-chemical modification process, carried out in the United States by the hardwood lumber producer and exporter. Thermally-modified timber (TMT) is ideal for outdoor use, as it has both increased durability and dimensional stability. It is increasing in popularity around the world and is ideal in applications such as cladding, decking and shading structures, as well as in outdoor furniture. This material is not currently used widely in the Gulf region, but it has so much to offer as a natural and low-environmental impact alternative to some tropical hardwoods or wood-plastic composites (WPC).

The three finished benches will be unveiled during Dubai Design Week 2020 starting 9 November.