Out of the Woods: The Adventures of 12 American Hardwood Chairs

Mar 5, 2013
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

Above: (In order of appearance) Squeeze by Nic Wallenberg; Floating Chair by Bobby Petersen & Tom Gottelier; Leftovers Chair by Lauren Davies; Snelson by Sam Weller; Well Proven Chair by James Shaw & Marjan van Aubel

As part of its commitment to encouraging young designers to explore American hardwood in their work, the American Hardwood Export Council collaborated with product design students at the Royal College of Art to create 12 chairs for the London Design Festival.

Under the leadership tutors Sebastian Wrong and Harry Richardson, the use of wood as a material and its Life Cycle impact was added to the Design Products programme at the RCA. Students, including Australian Nicholas Gardner, were set the challenge of designing a functional chair or seat in an American hardwood of their choice.

The designs were developed into working prototypes with the help of Benchmark, the British furniture manufacturer internationally renowned for its craftsmanship in wood and relationship with designer Sir Terence Conran.

Each design was environmentally profiled using an Life Cycle Analysis modeling system developed for AHEC by sustainability experts PE international and ‘cradle to grave’ impact statements for each piece were produced.

According to Roderick Wiles, AHEC Director for Oceania “this project enabled students to develop an understanding of the direct environmental impacts of their designs and the materials they choose. It was a challenge for the students taking on board the information we provided and using it in the creative process but they did so with some extraordinary results”.

The chairs became a highlight of the London Design Festival in 2012 and have recently shown at the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair inviting considerable interest and provoked debate about environmentally sensitive design.

AHEC is currently exploring similar opportunities in Australia which, according to Wiles “is home to an exciting young design community with an already growing appreciation of American hardwoods”.

The results of Out of the Woods are available as a free iPad App on iTunes which tells the pictorial, fictional, scientific and factual stories of the 12 chairs.


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