Wood in architecture
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) have collaborated with Tomek Rygalik of Studio Rygalik, and a Polish furniture production and design studio Swallow’s Tail Furniture, to develop a chair - a piece of furniture that is one of the oldest and functional products we use on an everyday basis. Tomek Rygalik started his conceptual work from scratch by exploring the material and its potential - not only in terms of aesthetics, but also functionality. The Natural Born project focuses on understanding the material, becoming the foundation of both the design and the concept.
At a time of over-consumption, designer Tomek Rygalik speaks of the pressing need to design sustainably. He saw enormous potential in the American red oak from factors such as where it grown; a trees place of origin can change its color and grain, or how the timber is finished. “The simple yet diverse characteristics of the red oak boards have been inspirational for me. Instead of searching for and later imposing an imaginary form, I was thinking about the shortest way to process the material from the forest, i.e. its place of origin, to the finished product. Basic wooden pieces in the form of simple boards create a fully functional solution. I wanted the chair design to not require a lot of energy and man-hours. The Natural Born chair is a simple, durable, comfortable and fully natural piece of furniture with a very low carbon footprint.” - says Tomek Rygalik.
Magdalena Hubka from Swallow’s Tail Furniture has additionally emphasized that the true value comes from the material used, which can attract consumers who are becoming increasingly tired of the repetitive materials they have seen to date.
The carbon footprint of the Natural Born red oak chair is extremely low for a high-end product, likely to have a long life and to be replaced only occasionally. At 9.84 kg CO2 eq., the carbon footprint of the chair is the same as driving less than 100 km in a typical European car and equal to the carbon emissions of the average European over a 12-hour period.
Tomek Rygalik explains that a chair is a true representative of the ideas and current affairs of any given era. In this particular case, this chair embodies sustainability as well as the increasing responsibility of designers and manufacturers. They need to be offering durable, high quality products using materials that are beautiful, long-lasting, abundant and are not detrimental to our planet. The volume of American red oak standing is nearly a quarter of the North American hardwood forest and year on year the increase in volume significantly exceeds its harvesting.
Natural Born project is shown thanks to the collaboration with the Department Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 37).
“American red oak has massive potential in the Polish furniture industry. This extraordinary material is well worth the attention, because not only can it be used for a many different applications, but it is diverse, highly sustainable and creates products that will last for generations” - David Venables, Director of AHEC Europe.
ABOUT AMERICAN RED OAK
Over 96% of the total mass of the chair is red oak, one of the most abundant American hardwoods with forest growing stock equivalent to around 2.48 billion m3, 18% of the total U.S. hardwood resource. Every year, the volume of red oak in U.S. forests grows on average by 55 million m3, of which only 34 million is harvested. This means the volume standing in U.S. hardwood forests expands by 21 million m3 per year.