Staying Resilient Through 2020

Herman Miller, in collaboration with American University of Dubai’s Interior Design Department, kicked off this year’s Resilient Challenge 2020, giving interior design students the chance to be innovators of a changing world and to showcase their work to the international design community.



The challenge will focus on the investigation and design of an efficient and flexible furniture system station for designers, architects and students in design and architecture, that is suitable for the home and office, as well as academia. This encourages students to utilise their design skills and challenge themselves to new heights.

“There is an old saying that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” says Kristin Lee, Chair and Associate Professor of Interior Design at AUD. “This is what the Resilient Student Design Challenge 2020 seeks to do, figuratively. The competition builds on students’ knowledge base as well as perspectives. Designers adapt, seek alternatives, and grow; always optimistic about the future.”

“The Covid-10 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on people’s work experience,” says Stacy Stewart, Herman Miller’s Regional Director. “We wanted to combine the learnings from lockdown with a love for research-led design. We’ve learned a lot as a business as we’ve moved into the ‘new normal’, and we want to give students an opportunity to leverage our research and experience in their own design.”

Above from left: Kristen Lee, Chair and Associate Professor of Interior Design, AUD; Annamaria Lambria, Associate Professor of Interior Design and Outreach Coordinator, AUD; Stacy Stewart, Regional Director MEA, Herman Miller

The Resilient Challenge kicked off on 15th September 2020, with a host of local higher education establishments eager to take part. Participating universities include Manipal University, DIDI, Ajman University, Heriot Watt, Zayed University, Amity University, Al Ghurair University and American University of Sharjah.

Annamaria Lambri, Associate Professor of Interior Design and Outreach Coordinator Interior Design at AUD is spearheading this initiative and explains a bit more about the eligibility criteria. “The design requirements are for a system or product of no more than five parts, which is easy to assemble and use. It has to be light, easy to move (it may be portable), and easy to clean and sanitise. It also has to ensure social distancing and safety protocols can be adhered to, while being flexible, sustainable and innovative.”

The judges, all experts with years of experience in our local A&D community, include Diane Thorsen (Gensler), Pallavi Dean (Roar), Richard Fenne (Woods Bagot), Chris Morley (Herman Miller) and Esra Lemmens (Esra Lemmens Agency).

Clockwise from top centre: Richard Fenne, Woods Bagot; Esra Lemmens, Esra Lemmens Agency; Chris Morley, Herman Miller; Diane Thorsen, Gensler; Pallavi Dean, Roar

“AUD has benefitted from fruitful collaborations with Herman Miller in the past, and truly respects their philosophy and what they have to offer students,” says Kristen about the collaboration with Herman Miller. “This competition in particular has been rewarding as it gave students not only a chance to research and refine their design skills, but it also served as a vehicle for discussion about the pandemic, about connection, and about their own experiences. It has been a wonderful starting point to the semester, and we are so excited to hear the feedback from the amazing jury panel.”

All the shortlisted candidates will have their work featured during Dubai Design Week 2020, and the deeply coveted prize will be an internship with three leading design firms, Roar, Woods Bagot and Gensler.

The competition will run until the end of November, 2020. Stay tuned for more details and progress here.

American University in Dubai

Heriot-Watt University

Manipal University, Dubai

About the Hosts

Herman Miller is a globally recognised provider of furnishings and related technologies and services. Since its inception in 1905, the company has relied on innovative design to help people do great things. The global design leader has evolved into Herman Miller Group, a family of brands that collectively offers a variety of products for environments where people live, learn, work, and heal. Their family of brands includes Colebrook Bosson Saunders, Design Within Reach, Geiger, HAY, Maars Living Walls, Maharam, naughtone, Nemschoff, and of course, Herman Miller.

The American University in Dubai is a private, academically and culturally inclusive institution of higher learning, providing a globally recognised American education. Delivering a student-centric, forward-thinking learning experience to over 2000 undergraduates, graduates and professionals from more than 100 countries worldwide, AUD seek to empower and enable the leaders and pioneers of tomorrow with a diverse faculty of highly educated and experienced academics who possess excellent qualifications and professional credentials. With a growing alumni of successful professionals, CEO’s and entrepreneurs, the international accomplishments of AUD graduates are further evidence of our ability to produce employable, talented individuals who are global explorers, poised for career success.

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