Pandemic and isolation have affected our lives, human relationships and working methods. At the time, nine designers faced the challenge of designing and realizing furniture from American hardwoods by virtually connecting with the workshop making them in England. The "Connected" project is an experiment exploring the extent to which furniture designers and makers can modify their ways of working during the shutdown caused by the pandemic. Among the selected artists is a Pole - Maria Jeglinska.
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) trade association, furniture maker Benchmark and the Design Museum in London have challenged nine designers to create tables and chairs or other seating that meet the expectations and needs of combining work and home life. The designers will also create a series of video reports documenting the entire process over the coming months.
Currently, it's important to explore new ways to work remotely and create remotely. It's not that we're just now creating furniture using digital communication tools for the first time - this is the first time we're designing furniture in a fully digital environment, without the designers being able to visit the workshop," said Sean Sutcliffe, founder of Benchmark Furniture. - I'm curious to see how the period of closure has affected the way designers think about the product development process. How working from home affects the way we think about furniture in our homes and its functional properties," Sutcliffe added.
Invited to the project were: Maria Jeglinska (Poland), Maria Bruun (Denmark), Jaime Hayon (Spain), Sabine Marcelis (Netherlands), Sebastian Herkner (Germany), Ini Archibong (Switzerland), Heatherwick Studio (UK), Studio Swine (UK/Japan) and Studiopepe (Italy).
© organizers archive
Commissioning nine designers to make wooden furniture doesn't necessarily sound particularly original. But we now live in extraordinary times. We all spend a great deal of time at home, which makes us try to adapt to new ways of working. The pandemic has forced designers to take a whole new look at their home studio - what do they really need? "Connected" is an unusual opportunity for participants to design for themselves, but the most important challenge for them is the need to completely surrender to the times and conduct communication exclusively through digital media. It could hardly be more timely - we are already looking forward to presenting the results of their work at the Design Museum," comments Justin McGuirk, the museum's chief curator, on the initiative.
The designs will use three species of American hardwoods. The designers will develop their concepts together with selected Benchmark site staff, with whom they will work in teams of two. Benchmark will also be tasked with recording all the production data of each project, which will allow AHEC to create a summary of the environmental impact of production (LCA - lifecycle assessment). The completed furniture will be presented this fall in the atrium of the Design Museum in London, buckling the period of isolation.
Photo: Petr Krejčí
For the project, we invited designers from all over Europe who are more or less in isolation and forced to work in solitude. In the endeavor, which we call "Connected," we want to tap into their individual creativity while bringing them all together around a common goal," said David Venables, director of the American Hardwood Trade Association for Europe. - Our project is based on the use of three seldom-used American wood species: red oak, maple and cherry, which together account for more than 40 percent of all hardwoods in American forests. All of these species boast beautiful woods, and we are keen for designers to discover their aesthetic and raw material potential. In doing so, we emphasize the environmental benefits of making greater use of the resources available in nature, since focusing on a small group of selected wood species leads to supply pressures. It is our responsibility to expand the available selection," Venables added.