Interview with designer Yazan Hijazin (YH), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Benchark Bench.

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Interview with Yazan Hijazin at Saturday 14th of April 2012: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
YH : My inspiration for this piece comes from the space it was designed for; an Art Gallery. It’s the only piece of furniture that was made for the gallery visitors to set on and enjoy the various paintings that are hung over the gallery’s walls which are constantly changing according to artists’ work on exhibition. Therefore, I wanted the only piece of furniture to be on the same level of its surroundings; creative and unique while keeping its main function. On the other hand, people of different backgrounds will be using the bench, and I always have been fascinated by one common element in people-no matter where they come from; contradiction. Contradiction is a sign of maturity I strongly believe. Hence I wanted my piece to have such a trait as well, as a result, I chose to work on a unique blend of motion and stillness.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
YH : In general, I wanted to create a whole new design for a bench, impressing my client, and all potential visitors to the Gallery. In particular, I wanted to create a versatile design. I presented this version with wood, bronze and copper finish. If I can get an international chance to produce this design with a proper manufacturer, I can present BenchArk in other materials and on different scales. I can see the wooden part replaced with old antique-finish silver while the current metal part can be made of either traditional fabrics or even burgundy modern finished wood. Creating a design that can be equally good with different materials is an obsession of mine, I guess.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
YH : Initially it was designed for Orient gallery. Now it’s a Golden Award winner. I hope I will cross paths with the right partner. The more international the better.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
YH : It’s my first time ever to design a bench. I presented three options for my client, and I was hoping for BenchArk to be selected, which they did. It took me 21 days to develop a concept and a hand-made model.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
YH : It was a commission by Orient Gallery based in Amman-Jordan. The design was made to inspire.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
YH : I am open to suggestions and collaborations. Some offers are on the table. Whatever is the best for BenchArk, I’ll do it.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
YH : Actually none. It all came out of my head. I tell you this; I have been surprising myself a lot since I stepped into this field. I am the hardest boss on myself. I want to get more chances to prove to myself first and everyone else second that an anonymous Jordanian designer can be a world-wide known. Hence my brand: Anknownymous.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
YH : Thank you for this question. I strongly believe that BenchArk can be a unique piece in a hotel lobby, a lounge, a villa, a palace or even any spacious interiors. If I get the chance to reproduce BenchArk internationally, I have already thought of some interesting modification to make it even close to a platinum award ;).

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
YH : Many factors on the design level; its structural design, size, and the blend of materials it is made of. The unconventional structure of BenchArk design comes on top, in my opinion. It’s a different bench structure that blends organic movements of its legs with a minimalist and modern straight line. As in most of my collection pieces I work with both modern and minimalist aspects and combine them with contemporary classic curves. Its length, 3.5 meters, is above average which imposes strong presence and demands attention, even in a space that’s filled with high quality art. Finally the mixture of materials between wood and bronze and copper is somehow original, especially that the metals have been used in their real powder form which was a very conscious way of reaching the desired look and finish of bronze and copper using a fraction of the cost compared to using the actual metal sheet format. This bench was designed by a Jordanian investment banker! and it wasn’t produced by a large size manufacturer, on the contrary, it is a hand-made piece at a small carpentry shop in Amman.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
YH : I was designing a bench that I wanted it to be the benchmark for all other benches. The design resembles an abstract of structural remains of an ancient wooden ark. Having said so, the name as is, is a random suggestion of a very close friend of mine through a brainstorming session in order to find the right name. The moment he said BenchArk, I knew I not only have a unique design, but also the perfect name.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
YH : I started with hand sketches then a hand-made model using aluminum foil, isolation sheets, golden tape and some pins. And after client approval, I made an AutoCad file for the side prospective in order to help the carpenter in cutting the wood as per the unconventional lines of the bench.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
YH : A design that radiates contradiction between motion and stillness yet is in full harmony. BenchArk is a blend between art and function, therefore it demands attention

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
YH : First challenge was to have such a commission in the first place, taking my none-design background into account. Second, finding the right level of know-how among the local craftsmanship taking the very basic furniture design/manufacturing industry in Jordan into consideration was very challenging, especially when it comes to bespoke design. Jordan design industry doesn’t use proper 3d computerized machines, no single Laser cut machine exist and not to mention very limited wood suppliers with little varieties of wood types. The concept of a prototype means a waste of money and time for most carpenters; the small-sized carpenters would be afraid of taking such an assignment, and the big guys find it financially very unrewarding. Finally it wasn’t easy, execution wise, to apply more than 2.5 Kg of real metal powder of bronze and cooper in order to reach the final desired finish/look.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
YH : I will always be looking for the right international award to participate in. I am looking for an international exposure. I have big dreams and I am only driven by passion and raw talent.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
YH : The self satisfaction that I got when my client saw the bench for the first time has emphasized my belief that exceeding a client’s expectation is a very rewarding strategy. The relationship that arises between me and the bench from concept to realization has enriched me on all fronts. Last but not least, I was extremely lucky to have such a client as Orient Gallery. Mrs. Hala Jardaneh, the owner, has left me absolute freedom to execute my vision, the only restriction was 3.5 meter long bench. A designer rarely comes across such a client. This unique situation has unleashed a higher level of creativity and made me capable of transforming my mental images into reality. This, I believe, has led me to win a Golden Award. I am so grateful.

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
YH : Yes, I feel obliged to thank some key people who have supported me on various fronts. First my client, Orient Gallery represented by Mrs. Hala Jardaneh, the amazing professional carpenter Mr. Yousef Tahhan, Mrs. Rania Omaish, editor in chief for Trendesign Magazin, the talented photographer Miss Linda Khouri , and my family and close friends for their continuous support, in particular I would like to thank Noura and Sami.