Digital and ecological
Designing furniture in times of corona - the pandemic is currently confronting creative professionals and producers worldwide with new challenges. Improvisation and flexibility are necessary, working methods and habits are questioned and re-adjusted. In order to document this changing process of design and product development, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Benchmark Furniture and the London Design Museum have jointly initiated the "Connected" project: Nine international designers are currently creating a table and seating that matches their new working and living habits. Ini Archibong, Maria Bruun, Jaime Hayon, Heatherwick Studio, Sebastian Herkner, Maria Jeglinska, Sabine Marcelis, Studiopepe and Studio Swine are taking part. For the material, they can choose from American red oak, American maple and American sessile cherry - hardwoods that are rarely used in furniture production but which together account for more than 40 percent of all hardwoods in American forests, according to AHEC European Director David Venables. Sustainable production is at the heart of "Connected", as the production data from the designs will also help to demonstrate the impact of the design created in this way on environmental life cycle analysis, and to visualise the life cycle assessment of individual items.
The new approach demands a great amount of trust on the part of the designers in the craftsmen of Benchmark, one of the UK's leading furniture manufacturers, as the designers can only follow the product development and production process digitally. They will document the process in video diaries, which can be viewed on the project website connectedbydesign. The final objects are to be shown in autumn 2020 at the Design Museum in London as installation "Connected" and will then be taken on an international tour. A documentary film is also planned. "At this moment it is essential to explore new ways of working from a distance - and to create something from a distance. It's not the first time, of course, that we're designing furniture using digital communication tools, but it will be the first time that we make furniture in a purely digital environment without the designers visiting our production facilities. I am curious to see how the lockdown has influenced the designers' approach to product development. How is working from home shaping the furniture in our environment and its functional requirements," says Sean Sutcliffe, founder of Benchmark Furniture.