Tales from the Forest was cured by pig studio – a collective established in 2011 by the husband-and-wife team of Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, who recently moved from London to Tokyo after the birth of their child (all three pictured below).
The exhibition at the Milan Triennale featured 22 pieces from 14 countries and four of American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) recent projects over two years – all aimed at bringing attention to underused American hardwoods such as maple, cherry and red oak. “It was crucial to do something bold and impactful that could do justice to the extraordinary work of all established and emerging designers, without creating waste,” said Studio Swine.
They created no waste by using the packaging boxes the pieces arrived in as the pedestals on which they were displayed, designing a forest-inspired design from the London-based graphic studio. ROTATE on them once in situ, which was then painted, in order to ensure that the packing boxes could still be used for the return trip. The entire image only came together from a specific point of view in the exhibition hall – following the notion of anamorphic perspective.
“Thought Bubble was designed to create a space of mindfulness and relaxation through the repetitive rocking motion of the chair,” said the Bangkok-based interior and product designer. Nong Chotipatoomwan of the part above. “American red oak brings a warm and rich texture.” Maple, cherry and red oak are versatile woods that grow at a faster rate than they are harvested. Chosen for being strong, practical, tactile, beautiful and quickly renewable, they are currently significantly underused by the furniture industry – something AHEC wants to change.
Three tables made by the Milanese cabinetmaker Riva 1920 – in the background Navalia by the Rome-based architect Matteo Benedetti it is made of “via di levare”: blocks of American red oak, carved and refined until the final shape is achieved. In the middle, Italian architect’s Libra by Federico Degioanni The Oaka Table was subtly inspired by the shape of a dragonfly and is made from American red oak. And in the foreground, Morso by Alessandro Gazzardi is designed to be built by the user without tools – inspired by traditional carpentry, echoing the style of a carpenter’s bench.
Kumsuka (Evolve Your Space) is an outdoor bench designed using heat-modified American red oak (wood that has been roasted) for stability and durability. Johannesburg furniture designer Siyanda Mazibuko was inspired by “isocholo, an African hat, and indlamu, a Zulu tribal dance”.
The Studio Swine Humble Administrator’s Chair and Table were also included in the exhibition. Drawing inspiration from the traditional Ming chair archetype and Chinese gardens, the chair’s legs are made from steam-bent American red oak and the seat and table from cherrywood by reference furniture.
Stem by London-based design and architecture firm Heatherwick Studio is described as “a table that celebrates the power of biophilia, incorporating planting on CNC-machined American maple curved legs, attached to a glass table”.
Leftover Synthesis is “a chair that explores ways to make better use of leftover wood from furniture production, combined with computational design methods”, says industrial designer from Stuttgart Simon Gehring.
danish designer Maria Bruun uses an intentionally reduced design to let the material speak in Nordic Pioneer. This stackable bench with a rounded seat is machined from solid American maple by Benchmark Furniture to celebrate wood.
Concur is an American cherrywood armchair and bookcase – “a companion object that encourages the companion to disconnect from everyday life and focus on an analogue task in a warm and inviting space”. Anyone else obsessed with the idea of “companion objects?!” By the brilliant London artist Mac Collins.
Finally, Lausanne Ini Archibong’s Kadamba Gate outdoor seating (seen above left) is made by Benchmark Furniture from American Cherry, Red Oak and Thermally Modified Red Oak. The structure was inspired by the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, while the American red oak tops are finished with a rich green stain and gloss finish, and intricate removable brass accents serve as drainage in your outdoor setting. “Forest Tales brings together a celebration of exceptional design, love of wood and a much-needed call for balance,” said Venables (above right). “Balance in the way we use natural materials with a particular emphasis on renewable ones, such as wood. The same balance on which today’s designers, as well as the entire sector, are called upon to reflect in order to face the greatest social and economic issue of our time: climate change; and the need to end the current throwaway culture”.