Wallpaper* invited the American Hardwood Export Council, architects Kolman Boye and furniture-makers Benchmark to create a towering structure of food plates as part of the Wallpaper* Handmade 2015 exhibition.
The installation, which articulates the technical and aesthetic qualities of American cherry, combines an interest in traditional woodworking techniques and the photographic documentation of silent buildings by Bernd & Hilla Becher and Ole Meyer, creating a functional sculpture within the walls of a gallery.
The brief was to design a candy-store concept for handing out free savoury biscuits from local bistro T’a Milano.
It’s huge at over 3.7m in diameter and the same in height, more a structure, than a piece of furniture.
As architect Victor Boye Julebäk said “Something really strong was needed for the huge venue… but maybe we went a little over the top!”
“MEAT – A spatial strategy exploring the notion of aedicula, forms the body of an enclosed vertically pronounced space within space, that establishes a lively gathering point in and around the heart of the gallery.
BONE – The structure of the installation is informed by an intention to forgo the use of glue, metal brackets and screws in exchange for wooden joints. It is comprised of 12 elements set at an angle of 30 degrees to each other creating a closed, almost cylindrical, polygon. Each leg of each element consists of doubled framing studs, clasping inclined rails that in turn carry the shelves. The shelves holding the serving trays are joined by mortise and tenon joints and act as barrel hoops allowing the large amount of loose-fit components to act as one structural whole.
SKIN – The skin of the installation consists of 528 stacked wooden trays tooled with a purpose made, ball shaped drill to create a soft concavity for serving. Conceived as transformative process, the installation will by each serving slowly be reduced from a temple like space with casette-walls to a transparent carcass.”
Kolman Boye liken the structure to a set of “bones” and the serving trays as “skin”.
“We liked the idea of giving away the skin so only the bone remains. It’s very beautiful, almost choreographical, the way pieces of the cherry are taken away by the public so you can see the structure slowly disintegrate. Like those huge gas holders that slowly empty.”
Made from American black cherry wood also known as Prunus Serotina, the vast columns of shelves are arranged in a cylindrical shape so that a single ladder can slide around inside the structure to scale every shelf.
Each shelf in the Rotunda holds rows of cherry-wood snack trays that visitors can take home as limited-edition samples from the exhibit.
All 526 trays were snapped up by enthusiastic visitors in under three hours.
Rotunda Drawings, Concept Sketches and Joint fixing details by Kolman Boye Architects
Production at Benchmark (UK)
“Cherrywood, from a craftsman’s point of view, works beautifully and finishes to a gorgeous silky texture.
As a fruit wood, it has been prized through history and should be prized now. It has become a victim of fashion which the forestry industry can ill afford given its 100 year planting and cropping plan.” says Benchmark’s Sean Sutcliffe.
He adds “Rotunda Serotina continues our work on Life Cycle Assessment, which we hope will be taken on widely in the furniture making industry.”
Cherry’s sustainability means it will likely to always be available to bespoke and industrial furniture makers.
Designers on AHEC projects talk about its durability and pliability – it turns well on a lathe and steam-bends with ease.
Kolman Boye Architects share our respect for traditional Jpanese joinery.
We used square peg joints, cutting hundreds of square holes, – certainly not easy, but a strong component of Japanese joinery.
In total we made 3,084 separate pieces connected by 1,008 joints to make up the outer layer of the Rotunda together with 528 trays for the surface layer, all assembled without the use of nails, screws or glue.
Cherry wood is a vastly under utilised timber that has slipped out of fashion in recent years.
For this project we’ve kept it looking as natural as possible, Visitors will be surprised by its porous appearance – a raw and rugged contemporary look rather than the traditional reddish, highly lacquered appearance that is usually expected.
For this project we’ve continued our ground breaking work with Life Cycle Assessment for furniture and have calculated the cradle to grave impact of creating, transporting and installing the entire structure for six impact categories, including global warming potential (GWP), or carbon footprint.
American black cherry, which grows extensively in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and West Virginia, is one of the world’s fastest growing temperate hardwoods.
The dominance of American black cherry in the Rotunda and limited use of other more energy intensive materials contributes to a very strong environmental profile.
Cherry is a highly desirable timber which is readily available in the U.S. forest but which has been under-utilised in recent years.
It takes less than a minute for new growth in the U.S. forest to replace the cherry logs harvested to manufacture the Rotunda, which is carbon neutral on a cradle to grave basis.
The carbon emissions associated with delivery of the wood and fabrication of the structure is more than offset by energy generated from offcuts and disposal at end of life.
In addition around a tonne of CO2 equivalent is sequestered in the main structure of the Rotunda and a further 295 kg in the trays.
“It is a wonderful piece of cabinet making and a tribute to the skills of our craftsmen that they have used their fine techniques on such a grand scale”
Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder of Benchmark.
“Given current furniture fashion, you may be forgiven for thinking our forests are all white oak and walnut,” says David Venables, European Director of the American Hardwood Export Council. “Establishing a balance between market demand and the dynamic of the forest is essential to achieve true sustainability.”
He continues: “It is also about offering the consumer the widest possible choice. So not to present to the market some of our best and most exciting species, such as cherry, because they are not deemed “fashionable”, is a real lost opportunity. Rotunda Serotina is one of a number of AHEC projects in 2015 that will celebrate cherry.
There are already indications that furniture industries in Europe are looking at cherry wood again as a material of choice. It is our experience that wood fashion in furniture often determines a ‘look’ that then becomes architecturally trendy a few years later.”
ABOUT KOLMAN BOYE
Kolman Boye Architects was founded in 2013 by Erik Kolman Janouch and Victor Boye Julebäk after having collaborated on several projects.
The practice has a research-based approach, coupling academic work with construction and material investigation.
Projects are informed by a sensitivity to experience, cultural heritage and the physical qualities of architecture.
Benchmark is a leading company of craftspeople and designers, founded 30 years ago by Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe.
One of Great Britain’s most technologically advanced workshops, the team is now 50 strong in over 40,000 sq ft of workshops for timber milling, carpentry, veneering, spraying, specialist metalworking and upholstery, as well as design studio.
Their sustainable credentials are second to none.
Benchmark works extensively with hotels, restaurants, public buildings, offices and private residences.
For over 20 years the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has been at the forefront of wood promotion in Europe, successfully building a distinctive and creative brand for U.S. hardwoods.
AHEC’s support for creative design projects such as The Wish List for The London Design Festival, helps demonstrate the performance potential of these sustainable materials and provides valuable inspiration.
This is the AHEC’s fourth and most ambitious collaboration with Wallpaper* Handmade.
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