The Preservation Bench defies gravity at Downtown Design Dubai 2019

American white oak for gravity-defying twist on contemporary folk style

The Preservation Bench, a collaborative installation in American white oak between Houtlander and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry, stole the show at Downtown Design Dubai, which ran from November 12 – 15, 2019.

The piece, first presented at 100% Design South Africa earlier this year, has been recreated in American white oak for the fair. Houtlander also showcased part of their new range of outdoor tables and chairs in thermally-modified American red oak at Downtown Editions, Downtown Design’s dedicated showcase of bespoke and limited-edition design by established and emerging designers, collectives and individual studios from around the world.

For Downtown Design, Houtlander collaborated with AHEC to create a second version of their sensational, gravity-defying play on their contemporary folk style. The original piece in thermally-modified American red oak was awarded the 100% Design South Africa award for Best Furniture Design and is now part of the permanent collection of the Javett Art Center at the University of Pretoria. In order to bring their work to the UAE, Stephen Wilson and Phillip Hollander created a second version of the Preservation Bench in American white oak. The decision to change the material was taken, since the new piece is not intended to remain outdoors.

Known for its modern take on spindle furniture, the two designers reworked their signature style to celebrate the sapling growing from the forest floor, seeking the light and growing up towards the canopy. Three grounded benches in American white oak curve into one gravity-defying twisted form that seemingly disappears into the air. The bench is a visual representation of the furniture ‘coming out of the air’ and meant to suggest the form and function of a park tree with a bench offering some shade. The Preservation Bench is an expression of the fact that the material being used comes out of the air – it is carbon which has been absorbed out of the air by the living forest and converted into timber.

“Not only is the Preservation Bench a masterpiece in timber design and craftsmanship, it also has a minimal environmental footprint, which speaks to the inspiration behind it. We have calculated that all the white oak used to make the second bench would be replaced through natural regeneration in the U.S. hardwood forest in less than 1 second.

“Additionally, while in use, it is estimated that the Preservation Bench will keep 733 kg of CO2 equivalent out of the atmosphere,” concluded Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director.

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