Out of the Woods

The Victoria &Albert museum – an unchallenged centre-point of London Design Week, joins material sustainability and the poetry of objects in RCA-associated Out of the Woods. Supplied with timber from the American Hardwood Export Council, 12 RCA students were invited to a weeklong retreat. Their goal was to not only design furniture, but build it.

Santi Guerrero working on Num.4

The virtues of building their own designs was learning about the impact on the environment by material and design choices were at the fore. The American Hardwood Export Council is keen to stress that the range of Hardwoods available equals its abundance, quality and sustainability. It’s the job of prose writers, playwrights and professional poets including Patrick Gale, Gillian Clarke and Stella Duffy use the decorative, symbolic and functional chairs as the foundation for creative pieces. The central idea for design and literature was the lifecycle of the chair. The students were given free reign with one obligation: the chair had to be functional. This facilitated a fruitful array of compex joints, environmental investigations and exploration of materials.

Well Proven by Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw

Leftovers by Lauren Davies was a standard chair design stained with the juices from the fruits grown from the varieties of Hardwood Trees. Anton Alvarez carved a triangular prism from a tree trunk in Tree Furniture, starkly combining the natural world with severe angles. Mark O’Flaherty’s Num.4 created a basic-looking chair that on closer inspection had intersections of joints around curves and edges, a demonstration of precision and thorough understanding of furniture composition. Impossibly thin and frail looking-furniture with strength is a common theme in the RCA student’s collections. 

Leftovers by Lauren Davies

Prose and poetry, published in mini-anthology Out of the Woods: Adventures of Twelve Hardwood Chairs, remained in the more human experience in the life cycle of a chair, whereas the young designers’ priority was manufacturing furniture that made best use of materials and granting them longevity. The union of the two allowed the chairs to remain alive, out of the woods and long after the yell of ‘Timberrrrrrr’. 

Tree Furniture by Anton Alvarez

Tree Furniture by Anton Alvaraz

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All images taken by Petr Krejci and Mark O’Flaherty 


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