AHEC and T.ZED Architects unveil ‘The Cocoon’ at Downtown Design

AMBB Furniture Manufacturing repurposes thermally-modified American ash and white oak to create unique installation

October 2016 - 'The Cocoon’, a collaborative installation between T.ZED Architects and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry, was unveiled this week at Downtown Design at Dubai Design District (d3). Using thermally-modified American ash that was previously used to clad AHEC’s pavilions at exhibitions in Turkey, in concert with American white oak for the structural elements, T.ZED Architects and AMBB Furniture Manufacturing have produced an installation, which does not only serve the purpose of being shown at the fair but also aspires to have a prolonged presence in the public realm around Dubai and the UAE, long after the event has ended.

The basic concept was to create a cocoon that is gently placed in a dynamic and frenzied environment. The overall structure allows individuals to physically and metaphorically disconnect themselves from the surrounding urban setting and invites them into a quiet space where moments of reflection simply emerge. The installation will also provide an opportunity to test the durability and performance of thermally-modified ash and white oak in a climate and context that are very different from where they are more often used, and naturally sourced. According to Tarik Al Zaharna, Founder and Director, T.ZED Architects, the biggest challenge was to not only utilise a specific quantity of thermally-modified ash, but to also give new life through new usage whilst also ensuring the least amount of wastage.

“While producing our initial sketches, Frei Otto and Peter Zumthor came to mind as great inspirations to this project as we wanted to portray a visual lightness to a typically heavyweight structure.  Serene moments created internally by natural light drawn from above are a connection to the sky beyond, and movement of the sun is traced through the movement of light within the space,” said Zaharna. “At T.ZED Architects, we push for the use of natural materials whenever possible, as we believe this is the best way for architects and craftsmen to remain sustainable in design and relevance. We are constantly challenging ways in which traditional crafts and natural resources are utilized, and we play on the notion of contextualizing what otherwise would seem to be out of context. We have enjoyed collaborating with AHEC as we feel that by promoting the use of American hardwoods, we raise awareness of the value and qualities of raw materials, which are sought and enhanced in our architectural works.”

Outside of Downtown Design, AHEC is also involved with the Design Ras Al Khor (DRAK) initiative, which aims to draw attention to the potential of the Ras Al Khor Industrial Area - one of the oldest in the city - to become a creative district and hub in Dubai. The collective design initiative returns in 2016 and the theme for this year is ‘Celebrating Wood.’ As part of DRAK16, AHEC is bringing acclaimed New Zealand designer, David Trubridge, to Dubai, along with 'Aleni' - a recliner bench he made from thermally-modified American ash for AHEC's Seed to Seat project earlier this year. David will also be heavily involved in the talks programme of both DRAK and Dubai Design Week, giving him a chance to talk about his work in American hardwoods and his experience of working with product life-cycle environmental profiling.

“AHEC is delighted to be able to work with such talents as Tarik Al Zaharna and David Trubridge and to be a part of Dubai Design Week again. Thermally-modified American hardwoods are a relatively new concept and we believe that they have real potential in the Middle East in decking, exterior cladding and street furniture. Working with Cliff Caley and his team at AMBB Furniture Manufacturing on the development and production of ‘The Cocoon’ was also a very positive experience and this helps to underline how much talent there exists in the region,” concluded Roderick Wiles, AHEC Director for Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Oceania.