Lebanese sisters win Swedish Wood design competition

Lebanese sisters Jessica and Christina Abou Haidar won the Swedish Wood Student Design Challenge

At the second Swedish Wood Student Design Challenge organised by Swedish Wood in partnership with the American University in Dubai (AUD), participants were challenged to create an innovative and functional item of furniture for a hotel lobby using Swedish Pine and Spruce.

On 27 May, a jury comprising representatives from AUD and Swedish Wood, plus an international design expert, announced the winning entry, a table and seating in Swedish pine inspired by New York and the Brooklyn Bridge made by sisters Jessica and Christina Abou Haidar.

In explaining its decision, the jury describes the winning entry as a design that attracts attention by appearing to challenge the laws of gravity, while also demonstrating the strength of wood to great effect. The students have done a great job in creating furniture for a hotel setting, since the large proportions of the design suit large open environments such as entrance halls and hotel lobbies. In addition, the furniture is multifunctional, with places to stand and sit, plus storage. The jury also appreciated the aesthetic values of the furniture.

“The winning furniture stylishly illustrates the different impact that pine can make, depending on whether it’s used unpainted or treated with pigment. The contrast between the dark and light surfaces is here used to emphasise the challenging nature of the design,” said Charlotte Dedye Apelgren, director of Interior and Design at Swedish Wood.

She added, “The Middle East and North Africa is an important region for Swedish exports of wood products. The design challenge in Dubai is a way to educate tomorrow’s designers in the region about Swedish wood, very much a material for our age due to its eco-friendly and natural profile. The design students also gain practical experience of the material’s high quality, strength and versatility.”

“This competition, organised by Swedish Wood and AUD, is a big thing for us. It’s been an exciting experience that has left us very positive about Swedish wood. We like the strength and the colour of the material,” said Jessica Abou Haidar. “This is the first time we’ve designed anything together, but after this project we can see ourselves forming a joint design company in the future.”


In second place: Seating in Swedish pine and spruce inspired by London. Supplementary material: steel frame in black that recalls the typical black railings and gates in Notting Hill. The box-shaped section is used as a planter.

In third place: Shelving inspired by Liberty Tower in Tehran, can be assembled without any glue or screws and can be taken apart and flat-packed. The shelving unit is intended as a bookshelf in a lobby, as a room divider or as a towel and newspaper rack in a spa. The unit can also be rotated and is fully stable in every direction. Built in Swedish Spruce.

Jury members

Dr. Nabyl Chenaf – Dean, School of Architecture, Arts and Design, AUD

Mr. Daniel Zaragoza – President, Escuelas Nacionales de Interiorismo y Diseño Asociadas en México (ENIDAM)

Per Esbjörnsson, Project Coordinator, Interior and Design, Swedish Wood

Also attending was Counsellor Pia Roed from the Embassy of Sweden in the United Arab Emirates.