AHEC’s 3 Days of Design 2023
AHEC’s 3 Days of Design 2023 exhibition in Copenhagen looked to the next generation of Scandinavian designer-makers to create a dialogue on sustainable and low-impact production.
Among the bounty of ideas offered at 3 Days of Design 2023 in Copenhagen, one of the resounding themes was the dialogue around designer’s responsibilities to specify materials that can drive a move towards sustainable and low-impact production.
In ‘Three’, The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) looked to the next generation of Scandinavian designer-makers to highlight this message. Each representing one of three Nordic countries – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – the designers were matched at random with one of three plentiful and underused American hardwoods and encouraged to play, to explore the material and to tell their own story.
Working with American cherry, Copenhagen-based Anne Brandhøj presented a series of sculptural consoles, named ‘Inner Beauty’. By building up layers of carved wood, the Danish furniture designer explored the different shapes and organic forms found within the trunk of a freshly logged tree. With deep, smooth chasms, the surprising interiors of Brandhøj’s pieces draw the eye in and encourage touch and engagement with the rich and vibrant material.
Favouring thinking through her hands over sketching on paper, furniture and homeware designer-maker, Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng used chisels and a chainsaw to shape her pieces for the exhibition. Taking inspiration from the wild forest landscapes of her native Norway, the collection takes a stance against the linear geometries that dominate the design world. In light and incandescent American maple, Øfstedal Eng’s pieces include a shelving unit that juxtaposes CNC-milled shelves with textural free-form geometries, alongside a footstool and stool that celebrate maple’s fine grain pattern and annual rings.
New and Old Combined
With a practice rooted in material research, Pia Högman has a reputation for exploring new possibilities within traditional craft techniques. For her showcase, entitled ‘Cured’ series, the Swedish designer created five matching chairs from American red oak, which have both curved and linear surfaces that highlight the different grain patterns of the wood. Högman experimented with a variety of stains and surface treatments that suit the open-grained structure of the oak, resulting in a playful collection with interesting graphic details.
‘Scandinavia’s heritage of wood craftsmanship is epitomised by the work of midcentury figures like Nanna Ditzel, Hans J Wegner and Arne Jacobsen,’ explains David Venables, European director of AHEC. ‘But these iconic pieces were often crafted from tropical hardwoods such as teak and rosewood.’ In this project, AHEC highlighted the possibilities afforded by three materials that make up a total of 40 per cent of US forest volume, and whose increased use is essential to the long-term sustainability of the US hardwood forests.
‘By focusing on young Nordic designers who are also makers, we are seeking a fresh perspective on these timbers in the context of a long history of acclaimed Nordic design and material exploration,’ continued Venables. ‘The material choices that designers make have enormous power. They can influence aesthetics, product performance and wider style trends. They can even impact the make-up of the world’s forests.’
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