Art By Danni Lim
Art By Danni Lim.

Benildean bags James Dyson runner-up award for chair that transforms into emergency raft

As heavy rains and flooding continue to endanger many Filipino families, Industrial Design alumnus Aleksander Wieneke offers an innovative solution with his project NOAH—a transforming chair with the ability to turn into a life raft for escaping floods.

By Casey Delvo, and Wallace Beltran | Tuesday, 11 October 2022

At the heart of industrial design is innovation with a purpose. With this in mind, ID 117 BS Industrial Design (BS-ID) alumnus Aleksander Wieneke crafted his capstone project titled “NOAH,” which was celebrated for its ingenious approach, winning the James Dyson award as the Philippines’ national runner-up on Sept 7.


Providing an accessible way to evacuate from flooded areas, NOAH is a chair that can transform into an emergency life raft, designed with maximum functionality in mind. NOAH is equipped with a compact oar with a bow hook at one end, enough room to fit most body types in both its chair and life raft form, and handles that can be used to attach NOAH to hooks or to secure one raft to another. This multifunctional product was constructed out of double-walled polypropylene, resistant to punctures and abrasions, ensuring the passenger’s safety from nearby debris while onboard. 


NOAH isn't purely utilitarian either; its chair form is striking, stylish, and designed to blend into any home's interior. Moreover, its vibrant orange color makes it both a statement piece and an easily visible structure for rescuers in the case of a flood.

Beginning as a thesis project, NOAH was partly inspired by Wieneke’s idea to apply for the James Dyson Award. In an interview with The Benildean, he recounts how he was determined to identify a problem and come up with a solution that would be able to help people and make an impact. “I realized that flooding is still a big problem for us. It's been years and decades, and it seems that we haven't really improved [with regard to] how we manage and react to it.” 


“We needed something more proactive that the [potential] victims themselves can use and have in their homes,” Wieneke emphasized how he formed the idea of a transforming chair because chairs and other furniture were typical for every household. This would, in turn, open more opportunities for the product to be easily integrated into the standard home.


Named after the English inventor, the James Dyson Award has committed to recognizing and promoting the work of young innovators and inventors with a passion for design and changing the world. Funded by the James Dyson Foundation, the Dyson Company’s charitable arm, the James Dyson Award has taken place annually since 2005 and is open to engineering, product design, and industrial design students from 28 countries, including the Philippines.


Focusing on the different aspects of his project, Wieneke reiterated how his top priority was to do well and create something that could help people. “I wanted the brand to look good. I wanted to present it well—all those things. I was focusing on this project, not so much on the competition. You never know what the future holds so I was just hoping for good results.” 


“When I got the call, I was very surprised.” Wieneke recounted. “There were other great entries, [so] being able to place even runner-ups is a great blessing and opportunity.” Before the James Dyson Award, Wieneke also made his mark as his batch’s 2nd runner-up for the Best Thesis Award. 


Looking back at his experience while working on NOAH, he recognizes the different professors who were there to guide him and the community who pushed him to do well. “The creative industry [is] very competitive, so when you see someone doing well, not only through their output but even through their mindset towards [the goal], it encourages you to do well—to be excellent.” 


To Wieneke, doubts often come with designers, “You have this idea, and you’re working hard on it, but you still don’t know if it’s going to work. You don’t even know if what you’re doing is right.” Although the thesis wasn’t all smooth sailing—doing the project alone during the pandemic, away from Benilde’s facilities, there was always something to be proud of. “Seeing [the awards NOAH received], kind of validates the hard work and the thought I put into it.”


What’s next

On a personal note, Wieneke simply said, “I want to be able to contribute to Philippine design,” getting more sentimental about his goal before getting into the grander scheme of things. “I think [Filipino design is also] a good contribution to inspire others and to let people know about Philippine design,” continuously at awe of what local designers are able to do, “that there are people here who can think of great solutions.”


Charging toward the future, he views his award as another opportunity not only as something to bring him to new heights but for NOAH to make an impact. With plans to join further competitions and trade shows, Wieneke hopes that these steps will make NOAH stand out to investors, NGOs, and government offices who might be interested in putting the floatation device into the market.


At the moment, Wieneke works as a 3D Designer. But with NOAH on the rise and his plans for the product firmly in place, Wieneke is sure to be a game-changer for Philippine industrial design. 


Learn more about Wieneke’s multi-purpose chair-slash-life-saving floatation device “NOAH” on the James Dyson Award’s website


Stay tuned for Wieneke’s upcoming design projects, and check out his Instagram account here.



Last updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2022