The sixth edition of Madrid Design Festival is open to visitors until 9 April 2023. This international attraction offers a rich program of events, installations, debates and guided tours devised and created by La Fábrica under the direction of Alvaro Matías. The initiative stands as an occasion to recognize the role played by designers, as the title itself underlines: Rediseñar el mundo ‒ redesigning the world. The event in fact aims to provide answers to the tricky questions and complexities that society is faced with today, from the climate emergency to the depletion of natural resources, from energy efficiency to mobility in dense urban areas, while also touching on the loss of traditional crafting. And these are just a handful of the topics explored.
The value of artisan crafts, the rediscovery of natural materials ‒ especially wood ‒ and the manual skills possessed by the new generations of designers are placed in the spotlight in the two exhibitions by the American Hardwood Export Council - AHEC, staged as part of Madrid Design Festival: SLOW Spain and Natural Connections.
SLOW Spain is the latest of the AHEC initiatives, following Legacy (2019), Connected (2020) and Discovered (2021), and brings together the works and ideas by 17 students selected from nine Spanish design schools, to focus on the concept of slow design, which is indeed expressed here by the design examples on show until 12 March 2023 at Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa. The Madrid chapter is the second edition of AHEC's SLOW project, which began in Germany in 2021 at Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Berlin.
Visiting the exhibition therefore means looking into the importance of sustainability in the design of furnishings but also discovering a different slower approach to design, one able to spark change in the current culture as well as to create emotional ties with the people giving life to these one-off pieces. The emerging design generation is in fact exploring the potential of artisanal work combined with sustainable and natural materials, especially wood.
The projects are assorted and diverse, as illustrated by the coffee tables, chairs and shelving units on display. The projects have been guided by internationally renowned designers, such as Inma Bermúdez and Moritz Krefter (Studio Inma Bermúdez), Álvaro Catalán de Ocón (ACdO), and Jorge Penadés (Oficina Penadés), and have all been made from sustainable American hardwoods still little used in Europe: red oak, maple, cherry and tulipwood.
Particularly worth mentioning among the works on display are: Daisy by Jonathan Paige, a broad red-oak desk with drawers and storage compartment; Leve Mon Verre by Cèlia Anglés, a drinks unit with a playful design inviting people to get together over a drink; TÖEI by Alejandro Lorca, Elena Romero and Cristina Urbano, an American tulipwood construction with struts locking together at 45° angles, to create an architectural form evoking a cocoon around the person using the seat.
Another exhibition on show as part of Madrid Design Festival 2023, this time at Matadero Madrid until 12 March 2023, is Natural Connections, which sees nature as central in the scope to forge bonds between materials and people. Viewing the show offers us the chance to re-explore our relationship with nature, thanks to the projects by three important Spanish designers specifically invited by AHEC. Made of American cherry, red oak and maple, these furnishings have been made by Inma Bermúdez and Moritz Krefter, Jorge Penadés and Alvaro Catalán de Ocón (ACdO) ‒ the same designers who selected the young talents for the parallel show Slow Design.
"Partnering up with Madrid Design Festival, Matadero Madrid and three of the most prominent design studios in Spain offered an exceptional opportunity to bring the public into contact with the world of design, crafting skills and wood," explained David Venables, European Director for AHEC. "The design teams worked with American maple, cherry and red oak to create playful, original and highly innovative installations that we hope can captivate visitors, stirring reactions and bringing them into contact with these wonderful natural materials."
La Manada Perdida (the lost herd), created by Inma Bermúdez and Moritz Krefter, is a series of works made of American red oak, maple and cherry wood. Viewed with a dash of imagination, their forms echo a group of animals that seem lost. At first glance they are just benches and seating, but their design and unconventional shape go beyond their purpose and coax towards free interpretation: it's the users who decide what they're looking at.
Wrap by Jorge Penadés is a pioneer project in exploring how wood based on a production system involving cardboard tubes can be used. The outcome is a strong and versatile structure that shifts away from traditional furniture design. The material is made by gluing together two 0.7mm sheets of cherry ply rolled in contrasting directions. Here, the technique has resulted in a multi-purpose series of steps and a low shelving unit, finished off with solid wooden feet and 360° ball joints.
Nube (cloud) by Álvaro Catalán de Ocón is inspired by traditional wooden-bead door curtains found in Mediterranean towns, to create a special 'electric cloud'. The structure is built up of tiny pieces of wood that are all the same and made by simulating mechanical mass production capable of easily creating many units while preserving a crafted identity ‒ the soul of all this designer's works. What emerges is a sort of electrified net made up of beads and tubes in red oak, cherry and maple wood to envelop visitors in a light/shadow effect.
Location: Madrid, Spain
Date: open until April 9th
SLOW Spainand Natural Connections, promoted by: American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC)
Designer: Inma Bermúdez e Moritz Krefter (Studio Inma Bermúdez), Álvaro Catalán de Ocón (ACdO), Jorge Penadés (Oficina Penadés), Jonathan Paige, Berta Albiac Adell, Queralt Font Sabadell, Albert Roca Nonell, Cèlia Anglés, Arnau Anoro, Sheila Valle García, Alejandro Lorca, Elena Romero, Cristina Urbano, Eli Yang, Anna Perathoner, Daniela González Martínez, Natale Armendáriz, Jon Calleja, Nora Etxeberria, Ane Ozkoidi
Individual photo credits are included in each gallery image.
All images courtesy of AHEC