American University Sharjah’s (AUS) student group Ad Infinitum bagged the Grand Prize at the first Danube Students Interior Design Awards, which was participated by more than a dozen universities from across the region. The group, comprising Suheyla Takesh, Rasha Mahmood and Jumana Taha, final-year students of interior design at AUS, bagged the Dh20,000 Grand Prize edging out stiff competition from 11 other groups and individuals. The group of young girls, who won the Grand Prize for their innovative design of a reception lounge for a modern Middle Eastern art gallery, said they are overwhelmed by the honour. They say they were inspired by the Arab Spring, and wanted to do something different that would represent the ideas of the new generation.“Basically, what we wanted to bring in the design was this break, this innovation in thought and a new idea. We wanted to break away from the traditional way of presenting art but at the same time retaining key elements of the Middle Eastern design. I think that’s what gave us the grand prize because it was based on an idea,” said Suheyla Takesh, another member of the group. Jumana Taha added that the competition gave them great exposure before entering the work field and taught them all the skills required at the practical level to carry out a project. Planned to be the region’s Oscars of interior designers, the glittering award ceremony held at Grand Hyatt Dubai, was attended by the who’s who of the industry as well as the Minister of Education, Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Quttami, Bollywood’s favourite art director Zarine Khan, and Chairman of Dubai Chamber of Commerce Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair. Organised by Danube Building Material Co in association with Association of Professional Interior Designers (APID), the competition gave away a total of Dhs85,000 to 12 winners in two separate categories. Top prize in the “Reception Lounge” category was won by Esraa Mohammad Zein from Ajman University of Science and Technology, who also won the “Most Sustainable Entry”. In the other category, “Display Vitrine”, the top prize was won by Laxmi Shetty from MAHE Manipal University Dubai. The Awards, a brainchild of Danube’s Chairman and Founder, Rizwan Sajan, is going to be an annual feature with a bigger scope. “To be honest it wasn’t entirely my idea. This idea was conceived by a friend in India, who has been organizing interior designer awards for the last ten years and I wanted to do this here for a long time and finally this year we managed to do,” said Sajan, who was elated because the event turned out to be bigger than most of his team had expected. But, Sajan says, he knew where he was heading for and was clear in the reasons behind hosting it. “The main focus is to give recognition to the students before they enter the industry. There were around 400 professional designers attending the ceremony and they will now be familiar with the winners. It gives them great exposure,” added Sajan, who plans to come up with a bigger event next year. The competition was put together by a team of professors from different universities under the guidance of Farida Kamber Al Awadhi, President of AIPD. Around 280 entries were received in two categories, which were judged by the distinguished panel of judges comprising of Faten Alsarraf, Managing Director at Final Fix Interiors, Indu Varanasi, Managing Director at IR Design and Erick Casidsid, Design Manager at Gemaco Interiors. The designs were evaluated on aspects such as functionality, presentation, innovation and usability.from Gulf news.