My recent work has focused on material minimisation by creating structures using slender pieces of timber aligned in ways to provide strength to the piece. These structures also function as aesthetic elements. I have exposed these structures completely enabling them to be the major focus point.
The major influence for this approach comes from the world of engineering where industrial structures are built to be completely utilitarian with their appearance not considered. I feel though that while these structures as a whole are not the most attractive sights they feature elements which are unintentionally quite beautiful forms which reveal an inner beauty when considered.
I find this an interesting notion, these industrial structures which were created for purposes one would not usually consider sustainable were designed by engineers to be built using the least amount of resources possible which is in very general terms a sustainable approach to design.
This made me think are we as designers somehow unsustainable in our approach at times through the addition of unnecessary adornment and therefore resources for aesthetics sake to our work? This is a somewhat Brutalist way of thinking but an interesting one none the less. I think that there is a middle ground in terms of balancing aesthetics with resource usage and the intrinsic value added to a beautiful object through adornment means that it will not be readily disposed of.
My Tangent table utilities a very small quantity of material for its size (1200mm x 600mm x 420mm). The leg and rail structure are one connected element with the wishbone configuration of the leg structure providing strength through triangulation and the side and end rails double as edging for the table top. The entire structure only uses one board of solid timber 1800mm x 150mm x 38mm a very small quantity of precious timber for the purpose it serves.
Sustainable design at this time I feel is overly focussed on just using sustainable materials. Sustainable materials are a major element of a sustainable approach to design but I don’t see that using large quantities of sustainable materials instead of large quantities of unsustainable materials an overly sustainable approach. Rather I think that a more holistic approach should be taken by utilising a combination of methods to ensure a sustainable result. Some of these methods include minimising material usage through considered well thought out design, producing work with a high level of craftsmanship to increase its lifespan and possibly negate the need to recycle but for it to simply be refurbished far into the future and creating objects that are timeless in their aesthetic and not just reacting to short term market trends.
I find our consumer culture with its throw away mindset quite disheartening. We seem to have lost our sense of the value of our possessions. I think that the best way of all for us to foster sustainability is to simply consume less by focusing on quality and through our own work produce objects which will be the antiques of tomorrow and still cherished a many years from now and far too precious to throw away.
Nick Randall website
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