It's always a pleasure to meet up-and-coming design talent, so InsideOut was delighted to be on the judging panel of the final of LG Conceptualife 2011 recently, a competition where students were invited to present their designs for an eco-friendly kitchen of the future. The event, held at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, was the culmination of heats in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. Two finalists from each of these countries had honed their designs and practised their presentations and were all awaiting the grand finale to see who would be judged the winner.
My fellow judges, KW Kim, president of LG Electronics, MEA Region, Ahmad Al Ali, founder and executive chairman of X-Architects and myself, entered the darkened auditorium to a nervous murmuring from the finalists who were about to present their ideas. Cameras flashed and journalists made surreptitious notes as the event kicked off and we settled back optimistically with our scorecards, eager to see what the designers of the future had in mind for the kitchen of the future.
And none of us were to leave disappointed. From a design point of view, it was fascinating to see how many common threads were woven into the concepts, even though the students were from different backgrounds, cultures and countries. One favourite green theme in many of the designs, which rather intrigued me, was that of an indoor garden, irrigated with grey water recycled from sinks, dishwashers or washing machines. Perfect for cooks like me who love their fresh herbs, but have no garden! Other highlights for me included a concept cooker featuring a child-friendly fryer set below the cooker surface, a cylindrical fridge-freezer that featured sliding doors to minimise air loss and cabinets that opened by a sensor programmed to recognise only certain people's hands, making them completely safe for children. I was also very impressed by what was probably the most futuristic design of all, the Diamond kitchen, a self-contained kitchen concept by Mohanned Magdy from Al Ghurair University, Dubai. This, when fully closed, resembled a floor-to-ceiling faceted diamond, which could be opened sectionally in various ways to reveal different aspects of the kitchen inside. A work of art as well as a kitchen!
However, the winner, who presented a skilful amalgamation of interpretations of sand and water with innovative energy solutions, was Tolga Tekin from Turkey's Marmara University in Istanbul. The world of design will definitely be seeing more of him in the future - his design, unlike any other currently on offer in the kitchen market, was practical, innovative and gorgeous to look at.
When asked how he felt after winning, excited 22-year-old Tekin said, "I still cannot believe I am holding this award - I am on top of the world and now, am even more confident that I will be a successful designer who can make a difference. I thank LG from the bottom of my heart for this opportunity and allowing me to realise my dream." In fact, when I spoke to him after the event, he told me the first thing he had done after winning first place and prizes of a fully paid one-month internship at Dubai-based design firm X-Architects, $5,000 (Dh18,365) and an LG Optimus smartphone, was phone his mum in Italy! Bless!