For Amsterdam-based design studio Formafantasma, wood is a longstanding topic of fascination and a vehicle for understanding the ecological impact of our voracious consumption. Their exhibition at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery – which reopens on 29 September – is named ‘Cambio’, after the membrane that runs around the trunk of trees. Cambio is emblematic of Formafantasma’s research-driven approach, taking a holistic view of the timber industry that brings together design, art, science, engineering and advocacy.

The exhibition’s aim, as the designers say, is to ‘shift the common perception of design as a tool for styling to an approach that can effect real transformation in a time of climate and social instabilities’. It was with a similar goal in mind that we at Wallpaper* decided to reinvent our flagship Handmade exhibition as Wallpaper* Re-Made: an ideas lab to imagine ways of making and doing that are kinder, smarter, cleaner, and less exploitative of people and resources.

It was fitting that we would invite Formafantasma to participate in Re-Made. They have graciously agreed to design our exhibition in Milan next year, following on a series of groundbreaking exhibition sets that they’ve created for leading European museums. In the meantime, they also created the limited-edition subscribers cover for our August 2020 issue, which introduces the Re-Made concept, previews 23 projects that we’ve been working on, and brings in an additional seven forward-thinkers (Formafantasma among them) to discuss their design research and its implications for people and planet. 

Characteristically, Formafantasma’s cover design hinges on the fact that print involves the cultivation and harvesting of wood, and so responsible print production and consumption is part of our duty to the environment. They selected a black-and-white microscopic image of paper fibres, specifically the fibres of eucalyptus, a fast-growing plant often used in paper production. They then added the line ‘This magazine is storing approximately 665.19g of CO2’, based on a calculation of the quantity of carbon dioxide sequestered by the trees that constitute the 116 pages of the magazine – which is also the quantity that would return to the atmosphere (and contribute to global warming) when the magazine is thrown away.

‘This cover design is about the magazine as an object produced on paper,’ explain Formafantasma. ‘Trees absorb CO2 before they become paper and wood-based products. Keeping the product for longer or re-using it will postpone the release of CO2 back into the atmosphere, when the product is incinerated.’

Striking and self-referential, the cover sets a contemplative tone that we continue throughout the Re-Made issue. We hope it will encourage our subscribers to hold on to our magazine after their first read, to return to it in future, and to join us in becoming more thoughtful with our daily habits.

Our August 2020 Re-Made issue, including an interview with Formafantasma on the environmental impact of temporary installation and exhibition design, is on newsstands today, and available as a free PDF download here. §