Designed by Michael Thonet in 1859, Thonet Nr. 14 was one of the first pieces of furniture to be mass-produced. It was the 14th version that finally achieved what he had been working on for over 20 years. After initial experiments with laminated wood, Thonet found a successful method of steam bending single pieces of solid wood. All the models Thonet had worked on up to that point revealed his vision that mass-produced furniture could only be achieved with this new approach. He methodically rationalised every aspect, from production and distribution to form and function. One of the strategies he used to optimise the process was to make efficient use of the abundant resource of beech wood. Instead of cutting solid wood into shapes, Thonet opted to cut thin strips of wood and bend them in three dimensions. This approach minimised waste and reduced offcuts; a radical change from conventional furniture production methods. Although this approach initially seemed environmentally friendly, the effects of industrialisation led to a huge decline in Europe‘s forests.
Today, in 2023, Europe‘s forests are growing again and are more than a third larger than they were 100 years ago. But our need for wood hasn‘t diminished. What was once fuel and wood products is now tonnes of cardboard packaging and disposable coffee cups. Forests are now being replanted in monocultures to cover this extensive use, but in today‘s context, responsible use of resources requires a different approach.
Instead of using less wood, our focus should be on preserving trees altogether. Branchwood Nr. 4 is the result of three years of dedicated work on making wooden furniture using only real regrowing resources such as branches or roots. When branches are cut from a tree, they regrow, allowing the tree to both grow and age. Preserving old-growth trees is vital for maintaining intact ecosystems and healthy biodiversity. This chair is not intended as a new version of mass-produced furniture, but as a handcrafted object made from local resources. Its purpose is to communicate the story of natural resources at a time when their value is most important.