For several years now, the design project partnered by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and the London Design Festival has been an opportunity to experiment with the construction and expressive potential of American hardwood.
Legacy, the project of the 2019 edition of the festival, involved ten “commissioners”, major figures on the London cultural scene, and as many world famous or emerging European designers. Their brief: to design an object their “client” wanted to pass on either to their family or to the institution they headed. Craftsmen from the firm Benchmark Furniture produced all the pieces in their Berkshire workshop.
American red oak was selected by AHEC for the project. A highly sustainable timber, red oak grows spontaneously all along the US east coast. Easy to machine, its porosity also makes it easy to stain. “In times like these, the world of design must take responsibility more than ever for what is produced”, says David Venables, Director of AHEC Europe, “and promoting a long lasting and renewable material like timber is a way to do it”. In this sense, American red oak is an extremely appropriate choice, its fast regenerating capacity meaning that more trees grow every year than are harvested.
Legacy also explores the idea of things that last, objects to be passed from one generation to another, which in turn ties in with the concept of longevity and permanence rather than objects produced to meet a passing trend. Exemplars of design excellence and craftsmanship, the very different objects produced also reflect the personalities and everyday life of their commissioners. They also testify to the empathy between client and designer, which resulted in a desire, requirement or wish becoming a physical object.
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