Tabling a motion: the designer coffee tables raising cash for Surge for Water

Local designers get creative and sustainable for a worthy cause.

The We Play coffee table by Arsany & Peter. Courtesy Surge
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“There’s a certain shallowness to all that we do as designers. Our daily focus on aesthetics and beauty so often detaches us from reality,” says Sam Nicholls of K/Kreativ, one of 14 design companies that took part in this week’s Design Dine Donate gala at The Address Dubai Marina.

The initiative saw high-profile participants create sustainable coffee tables in aid of Surge for Water, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness of the global water crisis. “It felt right, and to a great extent, necessary to be a part of something that works to highlight and tackle a fundamental problem far too many people are facing,” Nicholls adds.

Four-hundred people attended the event on Wednesday night, where 14 coffee tables – primarily constructed from recycled materials – were unveiled and auctioned off. The initiative was the brainchild of Laila Al-Yousuf, a senior interior designer at ­Perkins + Will, who wanted to find a way to connect the UAE’s design industry with a worthy cause.

The locally based design companies, which also include HBA, Allen Architecture ­Interiors ­Design, Design Worldwide Partnership, Bishop Design, Bassos Design, Bluehaus, H2R, DFP ­Architecture, Maja Kozel, ­Arsanny & Peter, HOK and Jafar Dajani Furniture, welcomed the opportunity to use their skills to positive effect. Once designed, all of the pieces were put together by UAE-based manufacturers such as AMBB, ­Khansaheb ­Joinery, Bond Interiors, Depa and ­Vision Furniture and ­Decoration, which donated their time, materials and expertise to the Surge cause.

“Building construction contributes to 80 per cent of the ‘waste stream’,” says Priscilla Dankwa of DFP Architecture. “As designers, we need to be more responsible for our waste streams. These pieces attempt to reverse this negative contribution.”

Those sentiments are echoed by Thitiya Phanlerdwongsakul of HBA. “In the beginning, I joined this competition because I wanted to do something new and useful for others. As designers who work for a business, it’s great if we have the chance to give back. I had read about Surge, but as a designer, I started by asking friends and designers around the world what they expected in a coffee table, in terms of function and use.”

AlYousuf and her colleagues at Perkins + Will – Julijana ­Mitic, Marcelle Van der Merwe and Bianca Bouwer – came up with Connection with Humanity, a coffee table characterised by its ability to be configured in countless different ways. “Each configuration moulds itself to its environment as water moulds to its own,” they explain.

Maja Kozel presented Contrast, which combines contradictory materials to create a unified whole. “Opposites attract,” she says. “All the materials used in Contrast have been delicately chosen and made out of reused materials. Hopefully this can set an example on how we can become more aware of the scrap being thrown away.”

Meanwhile, We Play by ­Peter Esmat and Arsany Emil of ­Arsanny & Peter is designed to “take you on a trip down memory lane”, and takes the form of an intriguing treasure chest that begs to be opened, and can act as a coffee table or a games board.

Since its launch in 2008, Surge, which is registered in the ­United States, and has a UAE chapter, has provided access to safe water via sustainable solutions to about 150,000 people in 11 countries. Working with partners in Bangladesh, ­Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, ­Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Pakistan, the ­Philippines and Tanzania, the organisation has provided solutions such as water filters, water harvest tanks and bio-sand filters, and has helped dig new wells and clean existing ones. It aims to raise awareness of the global water and sanitation crisis, which currently impacts 2.4 billion people, by working with community leaders, educating communities, sharing information and engaging sponsors and donors.

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