Along with all its other effects, a year of enforced isolation gave young creatives and designers an opportunity to rethink the objects that fill our everyday lives through their experience of that isolation. Discovered, a project presented by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) in partnership with London’s Design Museum, is supporting and promoting the creations of these emerging design talents – creations that are free reflections inspired by their experience of life and work during the pandemic.
The sense of touch is the dominant theme running through all twenty selected designers’ creations, which will be on show in London until October 10. The works contemplate ideas such as identity and cultural heritage, family and social ritual, the pandemic-induced need to adapt, and the inherent comfort of touch. This has led to an extremely diverse collection of objects, ranging from functional furniture, such as wardrobes, tables, and chairs, to more abstract, sculptural works that inspire reflection. And all of them have been created from sustainable hardwoods: American red oak, cherry, and hard and soft maple.
Discovered highlights how the experience of isolation inspired the personal and creative journeys of each designer during what has been an extraordinary period for individuals, the industry, and the world.
Of the twenty projects on show at London’s Design Museum, here are the ones we found the most innovative and thought provoking.
Nong Chotipatoomwan – Thought Bubble
Wood: American red oak
Nostalgia for travel and social interaction guided Chotipatoomwan’s creative thinking. Physical movements replace changing moods, while the physical realm merges with the psychological in the domestic space. Exploring the concept of furniture created for relaxation, the designer centered on the rocking motion as the basis of her design, creating a chair that offers an experience halfway between relaxation and repetitive movement that promotes mindfulness. The designer chose red oak for the attractiveness of its grain: “It’s quite expressive, and I was interested in its porous nature.”
Siyanda Mazibuko – Kumsuka (Evolve Your Space)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Wood: Thermally modified American red oak
Among the inspirations for Mazibuko’s piece were the isicolo, a hairstyle that symbolizes tribal identity in various African cultures, and the indlamu, a Zulu tribal dance performed at celebratory ceremonies. He combined these visual references into a reflection on the themes of engaging with others, human behavior, and the role of design in people’s lives. “Engaging with other people is an intrinsic human trait,” says the designer, citing this as the key element of his design: a modular, layered seat intended for public spaces. His approach was practical, focusing on ergonomics and functionality to create a bench composed of interlocking strips of thermally modified red oak (wood that is heated to high temperatures to make it suitable for use outdoors).
Tan Wei Xiang – Recollect
Wood: American hard maple and red oak
Looking for a more tangible connection with his loved ones than online options, Tan turned to his collection of mementos to combat nostalgia. His keepsakes cabinet is a way to keep and show respect for the objects we hold dear. Its shapes were inspired by Singapore’s ubiquitous construction sites and the corrugated sheeting used to fence them off. Tan used this motif as the outer shell of his tall, slender cabinet, and created curved shelves to sit inside it with a mirror-polished brass ring that mimics the sun setting on the horizon. The designer had previously worked with maple but never from American hardwood forests. For this project, he chose a combination of hard maple of different thicknesses to achieve the corrugated effect on the shell and red oak for the curved shelves inside.