Nine imaginative and original tables and seating designs, created by nine leading international designers and beautifully made in one of Europe’s top craft workshops, will be on show in an installation called Connected, which launches on 11 September at the Design Museum in London.
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Benchmark Furniture and the Design Museum challenged these designers to create a table and seating for their personal use, to suit their new ways of living and working from home.
The designers had a choice of three sustainable American hardwoods to work with – red oak, maple or cherry. They were also invited to record their creative journeys to demonstrate how they approached the brief and developed their designs at a time of limited physical contact.
This extraordinary installation showcases the results of a unique experiment that sets out to push the boundaries of what is possible with these timbers and to explore how designers and craftspeople adapted their working practices during lockdown.
The project demanded that both the designers and craftspeople at Benchmark work innovatively, by relying solely on digital communication and video conferencing, to bring the designers’ visions to life. This approach required a new level of trust in the makers, since the designers had no physical contact with their pieces whilst they were being made at Benchmark’s Berkshire workshop during the summer.
The designers involved in Connected are: Ini Archibong (Switzerland), Maria Bruun (Denmark), Jaime Hayon (Spain), Heatherwick Studio (UK), Sebastian Herkner (Germany), Maria Jeglinska-Adamczewska (Poland), Sabine Marcelis (Netherlands), Studiopepe (Italy) and Studio Swine (UK / Japan).
Connected will be at the Design Museum from 11th September to 11th October as part of London Design Festival 2020.
A virtual version of the installation will be available on connectedbydesign.online from 12th September.
Wood is renewable and easily recycled. It can be used both as a material and a fuel; it is low impact and a carbon store. Strong for its weight, wood is also tactile, versatile and visually appealing, adding warmth to interiors and benefiting people’s health. With the world facing the ever-increasing impacts of climate change and of overconsumption of high-impact materials, the emphasis needs to shift to the environmental merits of making more use of what nature is growing.
The material choices consumers, designers and manufacturers make have a direct effect on the composition and sustainability of the forests. This project presents three beautiful and underused timbers – American red oak, cherry and maple- and questions that the obvious species aren’t always the only ‘right’ woods to use.
These three sustainable timbers grow abundantly in the American hardwood forests, which run from Maine in the north, down to the Mississippi in the south, taking in a portion of the Mid-West. They make up 30% the American hardwood forest and all contribute to its diversity and sustainability – red oak is the most widespread, for instance, while the soft maple is the fastest re-generating hardwood species. With heat treatments and a variety of finishes all three are hugely versatile.