Please Sit Here was conceived as a response to the reduction in our freedom and the need for behavioural change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Three prominent Emirati designers developed socially distanced outdoor seating using American hardwoods

Conceived as a response Please Sit Here addressed the reduction in our freedom of social interaction and the need for behavioural change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing – a captivating oxymoron coined to reference the space we need to leave between each other – has begun to dominate the way we live and the decisions we make. While incredibly important in the fight against the spread of the virus, it also curbs our freedom of social interaction and forces us to behave in an unnatural way. People are social by nature and regulations that inhibit normal social behaviour do not come naturally.

Three prominent Emirati designers – Aljoud Lootah, Khalid Shafar and Hamad Khoory – and their teams were invited by the American Hardwood Export Council to design and develop a hardwood bench for outdoor use in a public space where each designer was asked to select from three U.S. hardwood species; 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.

The brief set was that the bench must be designed in such a way that people who sit on it are forced to separate by the current social distancing minimum of 2 metres. This negates the need for warning signs and allows for people to sit in a relaxed way, without having to think about whether they are too close to the next person.

However, the design of the bench must also allow for conversion to accommodate more people, closer together, as and when the time comes for social distancing rules to be relaxed. This helped to ensure that the benches retain a legacy as functional public seating in the future.

About Aljoud Lootah

Aljoud Lootah Design Studio founded by Aljoud Lootah a multidisciplinary designer based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with work exploring the realms of product design and personalised corporate gifts.

She established her studio with a keen interest in the idea of contrasts in form and function. She composes her creations by mixing traditional silhouettes & concepts with modern elements. Patterns, folds and geometric shapes are at the heart of her inspiration. Her creative drive comes from a passion for detail, aesthetics, and experimental approaches to materials and techniques. As a product designer, she has been involved in projects that distinctly interprets the Emirati culture, traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design. Along the way, Lootah continuously produces bespoke objects & collectible designs for government organisations and private companies, and has been involved in various retail and residential interior projects.

About Hamad Khoory

Hamad Khoory completed two visual art programs with distinction after which he completed his Bachelor in architecture (BArch ’08) and Masters in architecture, with a concentration in design and research (MArch ’09) both at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, between Boston, USA and Berlin, Germany. His experience in multinational companies includes W.S Atkins, RMJM as well as Ruy Ohtake Arquitetura e Urbanismo in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

LOCI is a Dubai-based practise operating in the fields of contemporary architecture, urban planning, interior architecture and product design. Established by Hamad Khoory & Hani Fallaha in 2012. LOCI is a culturally driven design-led studio that believes in the importance of context and the power of the locus to inform its design process and architecture.

The design philosophy of their studio is based on the knowledge that architecture and design is not an imported technology but one that is informed by and arises out of the site’s culture, tradition and history, as well as its climatic and geographic context.

Hamad's research and thesis studies focused on the relationship between, social, theological, cultural, environmental factors of a society and its corresponding built environment. He strongly believes that space & form are a product of a society’s cultural and anthropological tradition, which should be preserved through meaningful and rational design in order to develop a sustainable locus.

About Khalid Shafar

Born in 1980 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As a business graduate of the American University in Dubai, Khalid worked in marketing and communication for almost seven years. In 2005 Khalid completed a degree in Fine Arts in Interior Design and by the end of 2009 had decided to leave marketing and follow his passion for design. Khalid has studied and specialized in Furniture & Objects design, first at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, UK, then at the Centre for Fine Woodworking in Nelson, New Zealand.

In 2011 Khalid opened his own studio in Dubai followed by a showcase space in 2012; both in Ras Al Khor Industrial area. Khalid’s approach to design encompasses his personal expression of form, movement, emotion, and in particular, ‘the tale’ of objects. Among his notable international collaborations, Khalid collaborated with LASVIT, Tai Ping, Campana Brothers, Moissonnier, COS, Kartell, and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) on special projects and limited edition releases. He also collaborated recently with Le Mobilier National et les manufactures nationales des Gobelins, de Beauvaiset de la Savonnerie on a site specific Art installation for Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum.