Seven UAE-based designers have created wooden chairs made out of American hardwoods and, according to the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), for all the hardwood used to make these pieces, it will take only 3.3 seconds to be replaced in the US forest.
AHEC’s project ‘Seed to Seat’ aimed to identify the environmental impact of design and build on its extensive work with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The designers have been given an open brief and asked to design ‘something to sit on’. All seven pieces were made from a selection of American cherry, tulipwood and red oak and produced by AMBB Furniture Manufacturing.
According to Roderick Wiles, AHEC regional director, in the next few month all materials, energy usage, transport and wastage will be recorded to assess the full environmental footprint for each finished piece. However, Wiles is optimistic that all pieces will be “more or less carbon neutral”.
“At this point, I can say that all the wood used to make these seven pieces was about 1.8 cubic metres of American hardwoods. The forest in America is so big and is growing so fast that it would take approximately 3.3 seconds for all of that wood to grow back in the US forest. Furthermore, all seven pieces together keep 670kg of carbon dioxide (CO2),” says Wiles.
The designers involved include Anna Szonyi, Bruce Paget (Heriot-Watt University Dubai), Fadi Sarieddine, George Kahler, Pallavi Dean, Hana Akram and Tarik Zaharna.
Made out of tulipwood, Pallavi Dean’s ‘me+mine’ chair is all about transformation, which she describes as the “Kinder Surprise”. At first glance, it looks like a giant sculptural sphere. When opened it transforms into a two-seater.
“This piece is all about transformation. I love the quality of play that the piece has. When it’s closed, it looks like a beautiful little wooden ball, and when opened it is very engaging. It features two seats and is all about the conversation between two people,” says Dean. “Tulipwood is something I use on a weekly basis in my projects. It is such a beautiful material and why not play with it. As children, we are always drawn to woods. You have a tree you want to climb on or wooden toys to play with, so this project got me thinking along those lines.”
Bruce Paget named his chair after Heriot-Watt University in Dubai where he works as a director of studies on the interior design programme.
He says: “My concept is based on both the structure and decoration. The chair has a distinct structural frame, based on an angular design and is also ergonomic. A chair is a fantastic project to design. You look at it and you sit on it and there is a range of requirements you have to consider.
Having a furniture design background, Paget appreciates the opportunity to work with wood again.
“At that time, sustainability wasn’t such a big thing. The narrative about the pieces we created is brilliant and involved people on so many levels, from design to science.”
Architect and designer Tarik Al Zaharna has collaborated with AHEC on several projects, including last year’s edition of Downtown Design fair, when he created an installation made out of thermally-modified American ash.
“Timber is under graded as material that one can use structurally not just aesthetically. A lot of the times architects and designers use timber as a cladding material, but it has a lot more benefits,” says Zaharna.
Aiming to demonstrate the strength of tulipwood, Zaharna created Ribbench, a slender bench that can hold up to three or four people.
“I’ve used a tulip wood as well as red oak to create a 1,55m bench that has beautiful, clean interlocking joints, without any reinforcement of metal. The ribs we created on the underside repeat themselves every 50-60 mm. The bench may seem delicate, but the structure can hold up to 200 kg,” says Zaharna, adding that he is now looking to mass produce it.