Forest Tales was organized by studio pig – a collective created in 2011 by the husband and wife team of Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves who recently moved to Tokyo from London after the birth of their child (all three pictured below ).
The exposure at Milan Triennial presented 22 coins from 14 countries and four of the American Hardwood Export Council’s (AHEC) recent two-year projects – all with the goal of bringing attention to underutilized 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, while creating zero waste,” Studio Swine said.
They created zero waste by using the packing crates the pieces arrived in as plinths on which they were displayed, projecting a forest-inspired design by the London-based graphic studio. SPIN on them once in situ, which was then painted, so as to ensure that the packing crates could still be used for the return trip. The entire image only came together from a specific vantage point in the showroom – 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 room above. “American red oak brings a warm and rich texture.” Maple, cherry, and red oak are all versatile woods that grow at a faster rate than they are harvested. Chosen because they are strong, practical, tactile, beautiful and rapidly renewable, they are currently vastly underutilized by the furniture industry – something AHEC wants to change.
Three tables made by a Milanese cabinetmaker Riva 1920 – in the background Navalia by the Roman architect Matteo Benedetti is made from “via di levare”: blocks of American red oak, carved and refined to the final shape. In the middle, Libra by the Italian architect by Federico Degioanni Oaka Table is subtly inspired by the shape of a dragonfly and is crafted from American red oak. And in the foreground, Morso from Alessandro Gazzardi is designed to be built by the user without tools – inspired by traditional carpentry, echoing the style of a carpenter’s workbench.
Kumsuka (Evolve Your Space) is an outdoor bench crafted from heat-modified American Red Oak (wood that has been fired) for stability and durability. Johannesburg-based furniture designer Siyanda Mazibuko was inspired by “the isocholo, an African hat, and the indlamu, a Zulu tribal dance”.
The humble Studio Swine administrator’s chair and table were also included in the exhibit. Drawing inspiration from the traditional Ming chair archetype and Chinese gardens, the chair legs are made of steam bent American red oak and the seat and table are made of cherry by the British company Reference furniture.
Stem by a London-based design and architecture firm Studio Heatherwick is described as “a table that celebrates the power of biophilia by incorporating planting into curved CNC machined American maple legs set to a glass tabletop”.
Leftover Synthesis is “a chair that explores ways to make better use of wood scraps from furniture production, combined with computational design methods,” says a Stuttgart-based industrial designer. Simon Gehring.
danish designer Maria Bruun uses an intentionally clean design to let the material do the talking in Nordic Pioneer. This stackable stool with a rounded seat cushion is machined from solid American maple by Benchmark Furniture in celebration of wood.
Concur is an American Cherry Lounge Chair and Book Rest – “a companion object that encourages the seated person to disconnect from everyday life and focus on an analog task in a warm, inviting space”. Anyone else now obsessed with the idea of ”companion items?” By the brilliant London-based artist McCollins.
Finally, the Kadamba Gate outdoor seating by Lausanne designer Ini Archibong (above left) is made by Benchmark Furniture from American cherry, red oak and thermo-modified red oak. The underframe 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 detailing, which doubles as drainage in its external environment. “Forest Tales brings together a celebration of exceptional design, a love for wood, and an indispensable call for balance,” said Venables (above right). “Balance in the way we use natural materials with a particular focus on renewables, 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 challenge of our time: climate change; and the need to end the current throwaway culture.