DIY furniture from invasive plants
As part of the APPLAUSE project about twenty different prototypes were designed by Trajna Association and product designer Matija Milkovič Biloslav in cooperation with Biotechnical Faculty University of Ljubljana (Department of Wood Science and Technology).
Dining table, desk, bookcase, wardrobe, coffee table/footstool, and green-roofed nestbox, to name just a few, were prototyped together with open-source implementation plans which allow citizens to make wooden products from invasive alien plants themselves.
The wooden products, including a line of furniture, were designed as simple and, most importantly, eco- and people-friendly quality products. It was the designer Enzo Mari’s project, Autoprogettazione, that served as the inspiration for our endeavours. The title literally translates to ‘auto-designing’ or ‘auto-making’, which is what Mari had in mind while designing a line of furniture for the DIY user setting up a chair, desk or wardrobe with only a hammer and a few nails and planks. Unlike standard planks used by Mari, the wood from invasive plants needs special treatment. While the material is otherwise perfectly comparable to the one harvested from native tree species, it nevertheless presents us with limitations that we rarely encounter with forest-harvested wood. Due to their ecosystemic advantages for the residents, not all trees in cities are removed – only those that are diseased or dangerous to the people or infrastructure. When it came to the production plans, the products’ dimensions were thus dictated by different factors, such as the presence of nails in the trunks, the quality of the sawn wood, and nonstandard dimensions. Such properties of the material do not correspond to the canons of the ready-made supply on the market. The list of species whose wood is deemed appropriate for use in our environment includes the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), the black locust (Robinia pseudacacia), the box elder (Acer negundo), and the horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).
Unlike the furniture which can be bought in shopping centres or concept stores, DIY furniture is designed primarily to encourage the self-organisation, creativity, and self-sufficiency of local communities. Such furniture can prompt a series of different activities. The practice can, for example, initiate public workshops in cities, help set up design production spaces, teach children how to make furniture in school classes, and help identify invasive alien trees in your local district. The project represents a tool for the formation of autonomous economic cultures by giving people the right to manage and care for urban ecosystems.
Catalogue with DIY furniture plans is available to download in two versions: Online view and Desktop printer.
DIY furniture with the accompanying catalogue will be presented as part of the Feral Domesticity installation at Salone del Mobile Fair as part of the [Tunnel 29]: design after the post-apocalyptic world exhibition in 2021. The furniture was rewarded with the mark of excellence ‘Made in Slovenia’ by the Center of Creativity (Museum of Architecture and Design in Ljubljana).
Text: Gaja Mežnarić Osole, photos: Klemen Ilovar