Species: American sapgum
Designer: Michael Warren
Born: London, 1981
Photographer: Mark O Flaherty
Michael Warren’s first degree was at Brighton University in three-dimensional design for production. Since then he has worked both for himself and others, on industrial design and events. He has just completed his course at the RCA but will be returning next year since one of his graduation projects, a portable CNC router, won a Dyson fellowship. This will allow him to develop the design, which he hopes to licence, for two days a week over six months.
It was made clear that the design programme was not a competition, but nevertheless Warren said ‘I am the only one who wanted to win’. He set out to design the chair with the lowest possible environmental impact. He used a minimal quantity of materials in thin sections, since he was very impressed by the fact that additional carbon dioxide was generated by kiln-drying thicker sections. He designed a stool that could be cut out from a piece of timber measuring 25mm by 145mm by 1.6m long.
The simple connections developed from much larger scale joints that Warren had studied on green timber building frames. Because of his desire to minimise the environmental footprint, he was very ‘purist’ for instance eschewing steam bending to create a curve, instead using two laminations glued together. He also rejected accepted wisdom that no elements should be less than 20mm thick, paring them down to just 18mm.
Warren made several stools during his week at Benchmark.
This design deliberately pushed down the embodied carbon as far as possible, by focusing on extreme economy of materials. Nevertheless materials account for a large proportion of the impacts. This is a fascinating exercise, but the end results, while intriguing, are decidedly fragile. So although each stool has a light footprint, there would in real life be a need for frequent replacements – not to mention the trauma and possible danger of breakage.
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