Discovered champions new talent at Design Museum

Discovered champions new talent at Design Museum

Twenty next-generation designers unveil works in sustainable wood as part of Discovered, a collaboration between AHEC and Wallpaper*, presented at the Design Museum, London

Wallpaper* and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) reveal the results of Discovered, the collaborative platform to promote and support design’s next generation. On show at the Design Museum (13 September – 10 October 2021), the exhibition presents the work of twenty young designers from 16 countries who were tasked with creating new objects in wood, inspired by their pandemic experience to represent the functional and emotional connections to our everyday items.

‘To be able to create an opportunity that gives a platform to a new generation of designers, to express their ideas and communicate their approach to today’s challenges and, at the same time, introduce them to important sustainable materials and connect them to some of the most skilled making workshops, feels absolutely the right thing to be doing,’ says AHEC’s European director David Venables, who led the project alongside Wallpaper* editor-in-chief Sarah Douglas and a quartet of international mentors – Tomoko Azumi, Maria Jeglinska-Adamczewska, Adam Markowitz and Nathan Yong. 

‘Emerging designers from across the globe have experienced personal and professional challenges during the pandemic, and the 20 young practitioners have produced a collective display that is inspiring and which shows the resilience and ingenuity of creative design,’ comments Tim Marlow, chief executive and director of the Design Museum. 

Wooden bench outside Design Museum London
Seen outside the Design Museum, Kumsuka (Evolve Your Space), a modular, layered seat crafted in thermally modified red oak and imagined for public spaces, by Siyanda Mazibuko

Over the course of several months, each designer developed a piece in collaboration with specialist workshops, working with a specially selected palette of woods. American red oak, cherry, hard and soft maple were chosen for their tactile and visual appeal, and to address the sustainable opportunity of designing with underused and widely available timber that grows abundantly in the American hardwood forests, and has incredible design and performance potential.

‘The environmental case for using more American hardwood in design is totally compelling; low impact, carbon storing, sustainable for the long term and, most importantly, they can provide the performance demanded by good design, as the Discovered collection truly demonstrates,’ says Venables.

Discovered exhibition at Design Museum London, with wooden objects on display
Exhibition view of Discovered at the Design Museum

The designers’ approaches to the project varied, highlighting different pandemic experiences and exploring how lockdowns and isolation impacted on local cultural practices.

‘Although there was a brief, it was a reflection on lockdown, and on the pandemic world and how we move out of that,’ comments British designer Mac Collins (winner of LDF’s Emerging Design Medal), whose ‘Concur’ chair celebrated ‘romanticised connotations of contentment, serenity, contemplation and a sense of withdrawal from the rigmarole of socially prescribed routine’.

Exhibition view of Discovered at Design Museum, London, showing design objects in wood
Exhibition view of Discovered at the Design Museum

For Adelaide-based Ivana Taylor, the pandemic was a moment of ‘really precious quiet time, and mental spaciousness’ during which her practice developed towards a more sculptural approach. This is evidenced in her ‘Reframe’ series of ‘contemplative sculptural objects that triggered reflection on the multi-layered nature of any experience, including isolation’.

Designers involved their families in the design process as they were working from their homes, and were inspired by mundane experiences and everyday life, the desire to connect with nature and the outdoors, and their personal responses spanned both a desire for public connection and an affinity for isolation. 

‘This is a time when the next generation needs support more than ever,’ says Sarah Douglas. ‘We are honoured to partner with AHEC and the Design Museum in presenting Discovered, to ensure the designers of tomorrow have the platform they deserve.’ §

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