The workshop of dreams is a creative journey, initiated by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), la IE School of Architecture & Design and Hay Festival, that brings together four of Spain's most exciting architects and designers, with inspiring talents from diverse cultural fields, in a celebration of Spanish creativity and craftsmanship with wood.
The participants have played the roles of designers and inspirers and have been paired together in four teams to realise their dreams into thoughtful and tangible objects. The resulting pieces, wonderfully crafted in a variety of sustainable American hardwoods, will be exhibited at the Esteban Vicente Contemporary Art Museum (Segovia, Spain) during the 2016 Hay Festival Segovia (opening on 22nd September and specially extended by the museum to the 16th October 2016).
Martha Thorne, Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize of Architecture, instigated the project when she wrote to four of the most talented designers and architects from Spain and presented each of them with the challenge of discovering and realising the dream object of a significant personality, from a different cultural field.
In the words of Martha: “This challenge presented a unique opportunity to start with a clean slate. The first step was for the designer and inspirer to get to know each other, to push each other to break down boundaries, and to freely explore new ideas together. The resulting objects were the dreams of the inspirer, but also the dreams of the designer, to attempt a new type of design or employ ideas that have been going around in his/her head, but have not had the chance to be realised.”
According to David Venables, European director of AHEC, “the resulting works express the power of dreams, by exploring new uses and new ways of working with some of the lesser-know American hardwood species in the Spanish market”. And he adds, “I can’t think of any other sustainable material that could be used to create such an eclectic mix of bespoke products and render each one beautiful and unique.”
The skilled craftsmen from La Navarra, a specialised carpentry workshop near Madrid, were responsible for manufacturing the four resulting designs this summer. During the making process, they recorded all energy consumption in order to be able to assess the environmental impact of each object using data from AHEC's life cycle environmental assessment (LCA) research. LCA is a scientific tool that helps manufacturers establish environmental frameworks that assess true sustainability.
The results of the LCA confirm that the American hardwoods used to manufacture the designs of The workshop of dreams are an expanding resource and harvesting is no threat to biodiversity or forest carbon storage. Also that it takes less than 30 seconds for the five cubic meters of hardwood logs harvested to manufacture all The workshop of dreams pieces to be replaced by new growth in the U.S. forest.
The products of The workshop of dreams are all well designed for longevity, a tribute to the skills of the designers and manufacturer and to the beauty and durability of American hardwoods. Long life in use significantly mitigates the environmental effects of the products, as the less regularly each product needs to be replaced, the less repetition of impacts. There is the additional benefit that long-lived wood products supplement the carbon store in the forest and help to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere. Together the four designs store close to 1.6 tonnes of CO2.
Thanks to the kind timber donations of the following American hardwood suppliers, the resulting four designs are really dreams come true: Tamalsa Europa, Gabarró Hermanos, Maderas y Chapas Blanquer, Maderas Medina, Maderas del Noroeste and Boss.
FAMILY OF TABLES
Commissioned by Martha Thorne
Designed by Benedetta Tagliabue (Miralles Tagliabue EMBT)
Made from American red oak, American tulipwood, American walnut and American gum
At first, Martha didn’t have a clear idea of what she wanted. “As we were talking, we came to the conclusion that what I value most is the time I spend with my friends. They are like my family in Spain and, although the time we share is limited, when we do meet I like it to be in a comfortable environment in which the focus is on sharing. And where can you share best -whether food, a book or a cup of coffee- than around a coffee table”, says Martha.
Benedetta carried out an extensive research and the result of her work materialised in a set of coffee tables, made up of two models. The ‘ribbons’ model is characterised by its subtle wavy shape, whilst the ‘profiles’ model carefully combines the profiles of the faces of Martha and Benedetta to create a piece of strong personality, which is deeply engaging at the same time.
The small “ribbons” tables were manufactured by gluing layers of veneer. They were the pieces with the most artisanal and tricky manufacturing process. “We even had to create bespoke moulds to be able to construct the irregular curved shape of each one of the tables“, said Félix Larragueta, director of La Navarra.
Commissioned by Javier Cercas
Designed by RCR Arquitectes
Made from American cherry
The two activities which take up most of Javier Cercas’ time are reading and writing, and for this reason his dream was to have a comfortable seat to work in. However, as the writer talked to RCR Arquitectes, his dream evolved until it became a desire for a more versatile space, which would allow him to switch between different activities such as relaxing, meditating, reading, or thinking.
RCR Arquitectes’ vision for their design was to fuse highly technological methods with the subtlety of natural forms, in order to obtain a fascinating object. Traces of the body scanning that was performed on the writer can be seen in the shapes of the final object: an ergonomic piece, which has been totally tailored to his figure.
The piece was manufactured using a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine, to achieve its complex form. About the choice of timber, the craftsmen from La Navarra said: “Cercas Territory was manufactured using American cherry, which is a very fine wood. It's not only beautiful and has an extremely high quality, but it is also a pleasure to work with.”
Commissioned by Juan Luis Arsuaga
Designed by Jacob Benbunan (Saffron)
Made from American tulipwood
Juan Luis Arsuaga refers to “limiting factors” as those elements or conditions without which a human life couldn’t survive. Therefore, developing from this concept, his dream was to have a portable wooden cabin that covers all the limiting factors, or in other words, all the basic requirements, so that a person could spend a few days living in the mountains, enjoying nature.
Jacob Benbunan and his team at Saffron sought to go back to basics when realising the paleoanthropologist's dream. With their interpretation of Arsuaga's desire, they intended to create a refuge capable of being taken into and indeed left in the mountains, blending into its natural surroundings. As Jacob explained, “this way, architecture gives way to the person and to nature.”
Félix Larragueta, director at La Navarra, describes the resulting object as “quite a special piece made of a series of fans which unfold to create a cover.” It was manufactured using a single American hardwood; tulipwood. And he adds about this timber: “Tulipwood is pleasant to work with, it doesn’t twist and it doesn’t warp. Moreover, tulipwood is light, meaning that Limiting factor weighs relatively little for its volume.”
A WINDOW TO THE ARZAK UNIVERSE
Commissioned by Juan Mari and Elena Arzak
Designed by Izaskun Chinchilla
Made from American tulipwood, American red oak, American hard maple, American soft maple, American cherry and American alder
According to Juan Mari and Elena Arzak their cooking utensils are the key tools that allow them to create innovative, fun and experimental dishes. “It would be wonderful to have all our utensils close at hand, whilst we are cooking”, Elena pointed out.
Izaskun Chinchilla added one more ingredient: “Would it not pique the diners’ curiosity to see this cloud of kitchen utensils, giving them a better understanding of the process behind each dish?” Her design presents a window for each of the two major players in the Arzak world: the cook and the diner. It allows the cook to give the diner a peek into the kitchen, the diner to eat at the table where the dish is prepared.
A window to the Arzak Universe is directly related to the sustainability of the American forests. It uses six different species, mirroring the volume in which they grow -using the most abundant species for the largest pieces and the less abundant ones for the smallest pieces.
For more information on American hardwood species and case studies, visit www.americanhardwood.org