The workshop of dreams is a creative journey, initiated by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), IE School of Architecture & Design and Hay Festival, that brings together four of Spain’s most exciting architects and designers, with inspiring talents from diverse cultural fields, in a celebration of Spanish creativity and craftsmanship with wood.
The participants have played the roles of designers and inspirers and have been paired together in four teams to realise their dreams into thoughtful and tangible objects. The resulting pieces, wonderfully crafted in a variety of sustainable American hardwoods, will be exhibited at the Esteban Vicente Contemporary Art Museum (Segovia, Spain) during the 2016 Hay Festival Segovia (opening on 22nd September and specially extended by the museum to the 16th October 2016).
Martha Thorne, Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize of Architecture, instigated the project when she wrote to four of the most talented designers and architects from Spain and presented each of them with the challenge of discovering and realising the dream object of a significant personality, from a different cultural field.
In the words of Martha: “This challenge presented a unique opportunity to start with a clean slate. The first step was for the designer and inspirer to get to know each other, to push each other to break down boundaries, and to freely explore new ideas together. The resulting objects were the dreams of the inspirer, but also the dreams of the designer, to attempt a new type of design or employ ideas that have been going around in his/her head, but have not had the chance to be realised.”
Martha Thorne herself commissioned a beautiful set of coffee tables from Barcelona-based architect Benedetta Tagliabue, founder of Miralles Tagliabue EMBT; RCR Arquitectes created an impressive and completely ergonomic lounge chair for writer Javier Cercas; Izaskun Chinchilla designed an extraordinary kitchen cart for three Michelin-starred father-daughter duo Juan Mari and Elena Arzak; and Jacob Benbunan, founder and CEO of global branding experts Saffron, interpreted a very unusual design concept for a portable cabin from paleoanthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga.
According to David Venables, European director of AHEC, “the resulting works express the power of dreams, by exploring new uses and new ways of working with some of the lesser-know American hardwood species in the Spanish market”. And he adds, “I can’t think of any other sustainable material that could be used to create such an eclectic mix of bespoke products and render each one beautiful and unique.”
The skilled craftsmen from La Navarra, a specialised carpentry workshop near Madrid, were responsible for manufacturing the four resulting designs this summer. During the making process, they recorded all energy consumption in order to be able to assess the environmental impact of each object using data from AHEC’s life cycle environmental assessment (LCA) research. LCA is a scientific tool that helps manufacturers establish environmental frameworks that assess true sustainability.
The results of the LCA confirm that the American hardwoods used to manufacture the designs of The workshop of dreams are an expanding resource and harvesting is no threat to biodiversity or forest carbon storage. Also that it takes less than 30 seconds for the five cubic meters of hardwood logs harvested to manufacture all The workshop of dreams pieces to be replaced by new growth in the U.S. forest.
The products of The workshop of dreams are all well designed for longevity, a tribute to the skills of the designers and manufacturer and to the beauty and durability of American hardwoods. Long life in use significantly mitigates the environmental effects of the products, as the less regularly each product needs to be replaced, the less repetition of impacts. There is the additional benefit that long-lived wood products supplement the carbon store in the forest and help to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere. Together the four designs store close to 1.6 tonnes of CO2. Thanks to the kind timber donations of the following American hardwood suppliers, the resulting four designs are really dreams come true: Tamalsa Europa, Gabarró Hermanos, Maderas y Chapas Blanquer, Maderas Medina, Maderas del Noroeste and Boss.
‘The workshop of dreams will be on show at the Esteban Vicente Contemporary Art Museum (Segovia, Spain) from the 23th September -16th October 2016.
FAMILY OF TABLES
At first, Martha didn’t have a clear idea of what she wanted. “As we were talking, we came to the conclusion that what I value most is the time I spend with my friends. They are like my family in Spain and, although the time we share is limited, when we do meet I like it to be in a comfortable environment in which the focus is on sharing. And where can you share best -whether food, a book or a cup of coffee- than around a coffee table”, says Martha.
Benedetta carried out an extensive research and the result of her work materialised in a set of coffee tables, made up of two models. The ‘ribbons’ model is characterised by its subtle wavy shape, whilst the ‘profiles’ model carefully combines the profiles of the faces of Martha and Benedetta to create a piece of strong personality, which is deeply engaging at the same time.
The small "ribbons" tables were manufactured by gluing layers of veneer. They were the pieces with the most artisanal and tricky manufacturing process. "We even had to create bespoke moulds to be able to construct the irregular curved shape of each one of the tables", said Félix Larragueta, director of La Navarra.
Commissioned by: Martha Thorne
Designed by: Benedetta Tagliabue (Miralles Tagliabue EMBT)
Made from American red oak, American tulipwood, American walnut and American gum