The Cherry Project: sustainability in the design of fine wood furniture.

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has a strong track record of collaborating not only with leading figures in the creative industry, but also working with the emerging generation to explore the possibilities of underutilized woods. At the 2024 edition of Clerkenwell Design Week, held from May 21 to 23, AHEC presented a series of initiatives highlighting their commitment to innovation and sustainability.

To promote this approach, AHEC challenged students from Kingston College in London to create furniture using lower grades of American cherry wood. The challenge, titled “The Cherry Project”, invited students from the Product and Furniture Design course to incorporate these less commonly used wood grades into their designs.

High-quality cherry wood without knots is widely used by interior designers and architects in high-end carpentry and interior architecture. However, lower grades, while less popular, provide equally beautiful and sustainable wood, ideal for projects that do not require very long sections. This project not only aims to demonstrate the viability and beauty of these lower grades, but also to promote sustainable practices.

Young students can lead the way in these practices, achieving both profitability and environmental responsibility. To ensure sustainability, it is crucial to use all parts of a harvested tree, not just the premium grades. Through “The Cherry Project”, AHEC and Kingston College students are demonstrating that innovation and sustainability can go hand in hand in furniture design.

“Working directly with materials and exploring processes is essential to our students’ experience. Physical material research allows new ideas to emerge. Having a good amount of hardwood to play with has allowed us to explore structure and prototype freely, both at scale and full size. This means that each student has had the opportunity to establish their own structural principles and manufacture their own full-size prototypes to a high standard.” – Carl Clerkin, Product and Furniture Design Tutor, Kingston University.

The result is an extraordinary collection of furniture and objects that offer fresh, practical, and creative perspectives on a material that is often overlooked. From stools and shelves to benches and even a playground rocker, the resulting furniture showcases both the versatility of cherry wood and the visionary talent of the emerging design generation.

“The next generation of designers, more than any before, will need to adapt to a new way of thinking about the materials they use and the environmental impact of the designs they produce. This project has provided these students with a valuable experience of working with a wood species that is currently out of fashion but has the potential to offer a lot to the world of product design. It has also shown that, with imagination, beautiful products can be created from what would be rejected as unsuitable in the commercial world.” – David Venables, European Director, AHEC.

Referrer: MiMub in Spanish

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