These chairs by Andu Masebo, produced while he was a Masters candidate in Product Design at the Royal College of Art, are handsome enough themselves.
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However, it’s when you learn how they’re made that they become doubly interesting:
“This series of chairs have been designed to be as resourceful as possible with the materials with which they are made. Each of their overall forms and relative dimensions have been optimised for the most efficient use of machining methods and the least amount of resulting material wastage. Individual components are cut from a single eight inch plank of wood with a rotating cutter. Each positive cut creates the negative of another, and the thickness and width of each component are determined by standardised commercial timber dimensions. All making for a chair with the best of intentions.”
In Masebo’s eyes, however, the designer’s intentions aren’t enough. The user of these chairs, too, must play their part:
“While this chair may be well intended, its overall impact when considered from cradle to grave may not be. Timber is often spoken about in terms of its capacity for carbon storage, however using it as a material with which to manufacture objects of consumption can only do so successfully when these objects are in use for a reasonable length of time. Once they are broken down, repurposed or turned into waste, their carbon impact on the planet changes considerably.”
“The extent and way in which carbon sequestration during growth may be ‘credited’ varies under different carbon footprint standards. The UK PAS2050 standard credits a proportion of sequestered carbon dependent on the lifetime of a product. For example, 0.19% of the sequestered carbon may be credited for a product in use for 25 years, rising to 50% for a product in use 50 years. Any union considered for this length of time would require a legal framework as well as a contract in place that could uphold the rights and responsibilities of all of the parties involved.”
To that end, Masebo actually drew up the contract, and now the meaning behind the name of the chairs—In Material Union—becomes clear:
“To live in material union is to respect an object beyond simply its monetary value or personal usefulness to us at any given moment in time. It is to fully consider the impact of the materials with which the object was made, the processes and transportation that brought it to be and the impact of these choices on both human and animal populations as well as the natural life cycles that provided us with the materials in the first place.”
“If we were forced to fully consider even one of these variables at the point of purchasing an object, might it change our patterns of consumption and reduce the amount of waste we produce?”