ArchiExpo e-Magazine - #21 - Working Wood - ArchiExpo e-Magazine

Working Wood

Designers and materials go together like fly on honey. In this issue we focus on one of the most beloved: wood. We talk to experts and get detailed information on various wood typologies, such as the disparition of ash wood in England that’s underway due to diseases, and technologies like Kerfing. As sustainability remains a constant discussion, we offer insight on how wood has transformed from a renewable material to an immortal one. Don’t miss our special highlight on working with bamboo.

This issue also brings you the latest on spider silk thread by Japanese company Spiber, a material already in the fashion realm and soon to break into the design world. Other goodies to look into: furniture brand Normann Copenhagen’s Milano surprise, our chat with design advisor Brent Dzeckiorius, a special focus on LZF’s amazing communications campaign and more. Enjoy!

Fullpage Zeitraum
Hot Topic
Treatment and usage of timber changes the way we design.
Courtesy of Sika


Dine in Detroit area restaurants such as Blu Fin Sushi or Public House and you’ll find yourself “eating off the floor.” Former floor beams are reborn as table slats thanks to Workshop Detroit, one of several international design studios into the cycle of sustainability. Already known as an eco-friendly material,...

Hot Topic
I would like to promote the use of ash.
Courtesy of Zanat


Toyota’s first appearance at Milan Design Week had the company pulling up to 31 via Tortona with an exquisite car made of various shades of wood.

Its Setsuna concept car, fully functional but not legally road friendly, had Japanese cedar for the exterior panels, selected for its flexibility and distinctive grain, and Japanese birch for the frame. The seats showed off Japanese zelkova and smooth-textured castor aralia.

Not on the road alone, other design professionals working with wood offer insight on the qualities behind various wood typologies and technologies.

wood design toyota milan archiexpo

Courtesy of Toyota

The Daily Must & The Rare

wood sawing design archiexpo benchmark furniture

One typology may have many faces, depending on how it was cut.

“The workshop is my favorite place to be,” designer and woodworker Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder of Benchmark furniture, told ArchiExpo in a phone interview. “It’s not about fashion, it’s not about trends, it’s about making furniture that will last for generations.”

The craftsmen at Benchmark stock wood in two ways. First, they bring in a variety of typologies they use most often, depending on location. They have a high preference for Scotland-sourced elm sawn at U.K.-based Tyler Hardwoods. “Not many others work with elm, but we do. It’s a wood with amazing character.”

“Ash is sourced mainly in the U.K., and again comes through Tyler Hardwoods, who are the best ash suppliers in my view.  I would like to promote the use of ash because 20 years from now, there may be none left. Two major diseases are on the verge of destroying all of the ash in England.”

Croatian forests, according to Sutcliffe, offer the best oak and Benchmark will often get theirs sawn by Italy-based Florian Group. While they might source their character oak from Tyler Hardwoods, they also work with Vastern Timber. Beyond Europe, they order American walnut from Horizon which “uses a through and through technique to saw their logs, giving them a more European look.”

“Second, we stock what’s rare, precious and beautiful. A few years back, we got 30 logs of Bog oak. It only comes around once in a lifetime. Bog oak is entirely immersed under mud for thousands of years which turns it nearly black.”

The bog or swamp creates low oxygen conditions that protect the oak from normal decay and acidic conditions where iron salts and other minerals react with the tannins in the wood, transforming its color to a distinct brown or almost black.

London-based Studioilse commissioned Benchmark to work on producing the tables for the first-class lounge for Cathay Pacific at Hong Kong’s international airport. “They wanted to inject the furniture pieces with more soul and organic forms,” Sutcliffe said. It took them half a year to find the right timber for the job. Benchmark went to Nelson Butler who supplied enough logs for them to do the tables. “It’s very large, wild European Walnut, left with all the raw edges and holes.”

Kerfing with Skrivo

“All of our projects start from a material or technology,” Stefan Krivokapic, creative director at Skrivo design studio, told ArchiExpo. “We rarely design a product and then try to think about what the best material would be.”

Gear pendant lamps by Skrivo for Miniforms

Gear pendant lamps by Skrivo for Miniforms.

For the series of pendant lamps called Gear—launched at Salone del Mobile in 2015 by the Italian brand Miniforms—“I wanted to find a way of bending wood without using molds. We found one called Kerfing. This requires the cutting of long parallel slats three-quarters of the way into the wood, allowing flexibility so the wood can be bent.”

“This process made it possible for us to design these large wooden pendant lamps using very little wood and without using any molds.”

The lamps are made using Valchromat engineered colored wood. Valchromat colors individual wood fibers with organic dyes and bonds them together with a special resin to create its wood fiber panels.

The design studio keeps an open mind when selecting typologies, depending on the project at hand. Whether using solid wood, bent plywood or steam bent wood, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages, ranging from function to cost.

Studio Thomas Vailly refiguration of a tree

Courtesy of Studio Thomas Vailly

Tapping into the Interrupted

In 2015, the Netherlands Studio Thomas Vailly completed their Reconfiguration of a Tree project focused on a bio-based material. The studio decided to work with pinus pinaster, a resinous tree harvested for its pitch.

“The forest of the region Landes in France was the home of a fine wood and pine pitch-based industry and craft. Pine pitch has been used for centuries to waterproof fabric or boats, for example,” Carla Enchelmaier, project assistant at Studio Thomas Vailly told ArchiExpo.

“Still used today, the raw material now comes from non-E.U. countries and the pitch is highly processed. Due to the alternative synthetic material, the tapping of pine pitch has been interrupted in France and this technique is now disappearing.”

Studio Thomas Vailly ripped apart the Pinus Pinaster tree and rearranged its elements into a man-made material, resulting in a black natural resin used for joining, coating and blending.

After developing the new material, Studio Thomas Vailly had four designers apply it to a product: David Derksen, Gardar Eyjolfsson, Lex Pott and an in-house designer from Studio Thomas Vailly.

Studio Thomas Vailly refiguration of a tree materials archiexpo

Courtesy of Studio Thomas Vailly


Hot Topic
Bamboo is very strong—23% better than oak.
Courtesy of Samy Rio

People have used bamboo from the earliest civilization in Asia, where these giant grasses originated. We see them in traditional architecture in Southeast Asia: People in Indonesia use bamboo stilts to create their rice carriages, and many Filipinos in the north of the Philippines construct little houses out of bamboo...

“We have designed and synthesized over 700 original proteins, based off existing proteins in nature but with modifications in the amino acid sequence,”...

Courtesy of Martinelli Luce

“Recently, we’ve used polyethylene with a lathe system. It’s another very important and innovative technology which allows us to create very large lamps that have...

i-Novo iSaloni Planika
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  • Designer sisters Faye and Erica Toogood at London-based Studio Toogood united their objects, clothes and sculptures within an interior space for the first time during London Design Festival 2015. Their installation The Drawing Room at Somerset House welcomed visitors into a space where the translucent plastic sheets lining the walls were covered in charcoal-sketched furniture.

    The space held more than a figment of imagination; the sisters completed the redrafting of an English drawing room with a combination of abstracted cardboard sculptures, cardboard origami stray chickens and ducks and their contemporary Roly-Poly pieces from their Assemblage 4 collection, remodeled in fiberglass.

    In the center of the room: a delightful handwoven rug strung together from limewashed fragments of canvas and rope. Their recent fashion collection hung from a metal rail and personal objects filled a vintage cabinet to encourage a relaxed feel.

    Courtesy of Studio Toogood.

    Courtesy of Studio Toogood.

    It’s a fictional but autobiographical room that is filled with objects, scenes, walks and places that we remember as children,” Faye explained in an interview about the exhibition.

    The sisters describe their father as an anthropologist, saying they grew up listening to him memorizing distinct bird noises. In the exhibition, recordings of birds singing played throughout the space.

    Check out the video interview with Faye Toogood on LSN.

    Courtesy of Normann Copenhagen

    “I don’t know if I can say anything,” says Hans Hornemann, designer at Normann Copenhagen, to ArchiExpo back in February 2016. “It’s a surprise.” Hornemann,...

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    Telling Tales, a collection of illuminated stories, comes down to an amazing communication campaign idea launched by LZF for 2016. Together with Masquespacio Studio, they’ve created stories and brought them to life through perfectly colored images, each presenting one of their handmade wooden lights.

    “Mariví Calvo created the campaign based on three ideas that would make this catalogue different from previous ones: The images were to be set at night, providing an opportunity to showcase the lamps when lit; the focus was to shift from spaces themselves to the human beings that inhabit them; and the catalogue was to move away from traditional formats and to be a work of artistic creation,” LZF explains on its website.

    lzf i-club lamps archiexpo telling tales

    “Julie never gets back home before six in the morning.” First collection Julie&Nelson featuring the I-CLUB lamp by LZF. Courtesy of LZF.

    Telling Tales, a collection of hundreds of photographs, six stories and several hours of filming, offers the public a fun way to view LZF’s products. They also have the chance to see the selected images and read the stories through LZF’s social media channels, Magazine No. 3 and in a special, six-volume book edition that will appear periodically throughout 2016.

    The idea was to recreate the colors of film and photography from the 1950s. They chose writer and novelist Grassa Toro to give a literary sense that would turn this imaginary world into a piece people could connect to. Once Grassa Toro joined in July 2015, the first stories were ready.

    lzf i-club lamps archiexpo telling tales

    Second collection Lana&John: Lana is playing the cello under LZF’s Dandelion Lamp. Courtesy of LZF.

    LZF and its collaborators decided on new locations, furniture, decoration objects and period costumes; they then held auditions to select actors and models in Valencia who would play the characters.

    “A team in charge of lighting, photography and digital image processing was put together and consisted of María Mira & Cualiti Photo Studio. Managed by LZF´s very own Ester Colomina and directed down to the last detail by Mariví Calvo, the wheels rolled into motion.”

    The Third collection Ava&Silver will be out this month.

    i-Novo iSaloni Noken


    Ludovic Nachury

    Journalist and innovation enthusiast for more than 10 years, Ludovic Nachury is ArchiExpo e-magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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    Erin Tallman

    American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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    Vanessa Liwanag

    Vanessa Liwanag, is an MBA alumni of the prestigious Mod’Art International in Paris and founder of Creative Talents Worldwide.

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    Hilary Edesess

    Hilary Edesess is a freelance journalist based in Marseille, France. She blogs about culture, art and urban design.

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    Erin Gigl

    Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

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