Ivana Taylor

Forest Tales

Four ambitious projects, three sustainablehardwoods, 22 extraordinary designs


Triennale Milano

Viale Emilio Alemagna 620121 Milano


Opening times

3–12 June

11.00–21.00 (last entrance at 20.00)


Curated and designed by Studio Swine, Forest Talesbrings together22 specially selected designs from the American Hardwood ExportCouncil’s (AHEC) recent projects, in a truly spectacular showcase ofboth global design talent and the beauty and versatility of Americanhardwood as a design material.


"Forest Tales brings together a celebration of exceptional design fromAHEC’s latest projects, a love for timber and a much needed call forbalance. Balance in the way we use natural materials with particularemphasis on renewable ones, such as wood. The same balance onwhich today's designers, as well as the entire sector, are called uponto reflect in order to address the greatest social and economic issueof our time: climate change; and the need to put an end to the currentthrowaway culture. Covid has shown that the world can react veryquickly to a major global crisis, hopefully this experience will enable usto quickly make the necessary changes in the way we consume, buildand live.”– David Venables, Director, AHEC Europe


Showing at Triennale Milano from 3 to 12 June,Forest Talesis theculmination of AHEC’s creative work over the past two years. StudioSwine have curated pieces from four projects, which despite thediversity of their output, are united through material – each piece ismade from one (or more) of three underused American hardwoodvarieties: maple, cherry and red oak.





which challenged nine world-renowned international designersto create tables and seating responding to the isolation imposedby the pandemic;


Discovered: Designers for Tomorrow

which gave a platform to 20 emerging design talents from aroundthe world;


Slow Design for Fast Change

which brought together nine young designers from the DACH countriesto create furniture and objects characterised by sustainability, longevityand craftsmanship;


A Seat at the Table

a new collaboration with Italian furniture maker Riva 1920 that seesfour emerging Italian designers selected to create innovative,sustainable designs for solid-wood tables.


ForForest Tales, Studio Swine takes a selection of pieces from eachproject, and incorporates them into a labyrinthine ‘mountain’ of woodencrates – a monumental and immersive exhibition design that invitesvisitors to enter, explore and discover a fresh perspective on furniture.


“We were delighted to be invited by AHEC to propose a display. It'sa great honour for us to be invited to design an exhibition space andonly the second time we have done so. The opportunity to be honestwas quite daunting, to create something in a venue with the history ofTriennale, during Salone, we felt the looming shadow of the great standdesigns by Castiglioni, Ray and Charles Eames, OMA etc. and so it wascrucial to do something bold and impactful which can do justice to theextraordinary works by all they established and emerging designers,whilst at the same time creating no waste.”– Studio Swine


Featuring 22 designers from 14 countries, the exhibition line-up is averitable who’s who of contemporary design. Featured designs includework by both established and emerging designers, ranging fromHeatherwick Studio’sbiophilic Stem table in maple andStudio Swine’sown steam-bent red oak tribute to Ming Dynasty design, toTaihoShin’sinventive, expanding, glue-less shelving systems,Maria Bruun’squintessentially Nordic stackable stools, andSimon Gehring’sthree-wood chair that fuses computational design processes and leftovertimber scraps to unique effect.See notes to editors below for the full listof designers.



Studio Swine’s concept for the installation is inspired by the openingframes of Citizen Kane, in which Kane’s belongings are shown amid avast jumble of wooden crates, to be assessed and packed away.


Visitors stepping into the gallery will be confronted with an interestingtopography of wooden packing crates – the same ones used totransport the furniture – with the various pieces displayed at differentlevels atop, under, and beside them. Screens, showing video contentabout the pieces, the initiatives behind them and the woods from whichthey were made, will be woven into the ‘cratescape’.


The surfaces of the crates themselves serve as blank canvases forimages depicting the forest landscape from which the hardwoodsoriginate.


Following the idea of anamorphic perspective, whereby an imageonly becomes clear when seen from a specific viewpoint (famouslyexemplified by the skull in Hans Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors),each crate will be painted to depict a single element of a larger scene,so that, when viewed for a certain angle, the images on the crates cometogether to form a complete picture. The viewer’s perspective of theexhibition will therefore shift depending on where they are standing –from one angle, they will see the complete image of a forest; at another,the image fragments and the furniture becomes the focus. Differentstories are told as you interact with the space.



The notion of shifting perspectives is integral to both form and contentof the installation.Forest Talesis not only a showcase of creativity,but an argument against waste in design, a plea for a more thoughtfulchoice of materials, and a challenge to the status quo.


Conscious that many Milan exhibitions generate substantial amountsof waste, AHEC and Studio Swine were determined thatForest Talesshould be as material-efficient and close to carbon-zero as possible,while also ensuring that its sustainability message reaches as many ofthe key industry decision makers in Milan as possible. That meant it had to be epic in scale.


The use of crates allows Studio Swine and AHEC to achieve maximumattention with minimal impact. The crates are multipurpose, usedto display, ship, and store the exhibits, so there is no set to disposeof when the festival is over – it simply returns to its original purpose.With this in mind, all printing methods and inks used to create theartworks on the crates, by London-based graphic studio SPIN, havebeen chosen to ensure that they do not impact the crates’ primaryfunction of storage and transport



WithForest Tales, AHEC aims to provide a global platform to designers,pieces and projects that have not yet been widely seen due to thepandemic, but also to demonstrate the extraordinary potential ofa selection of underused American hardwoods as sustainable designmaterials. This is especially important at a time when stocks of morewidely used European hardwoods have been depleted by overuse,and supply lines heavily disrupted by the current geopolitical situation.The pandemic has made the need to address the environmentalchallenge even more relevant , and while architects and designersarenow more inclined to explore a wider variety of timbers for theirdesigns, consumers are increasingly attentive to the impact of whatthey consume and surround themselves with.


Maple, cherry and red oak are all versatile woods that grow at a fasterrate than they are harvested. Strong, practical, tactile, beautiful andrapidly renewable, they are nevertheless significantly underutilised bythe furniture industry – in some cases because they have fallen outof favour as trends change, in others because they are simply not wellunderstood. With this exhibition, AHEC seeks to turn the industry'sheads towards a selection of three American hardwoods as the perfectcombination of aesthetics, durability and practicality – ideal materialsfor our current and coming generations of designers and innovators tocreate beautiful, long-lasting furniture that is either carbon-neutral orcarbon-negative.


"Forest Tales reflects on how the use of a wider range of sustainablematerials, such as the three U.S. hardwoods featured in the exhibition,and all wood species in general, proportionate to what grows in theforest, makes the use of the resource and the way we consume morethoughtful and responsible”concludes David Venables. “And for thefirst time, the entire industry ecosystem, including designers, specifiersand consumers, seems aligned in wanting to do the right thing in theface of the environmental imperative."



American red oak(Quercus species, mainly Quercus rubra)

Warm, grainy, tough and bendy.


Reaching a height of 21m, with a trunk diameter of 1m, red oak is themost abundant species in America’s hardwood forests. Named forthe colour of its leaves in the fall, this classic oak wood has a lightbrown sapwood, and a heartwood characterised by attractive warmreddish-pink tones. Red oak is strong, straight grained, coarse-textured and distinctive. Its porosity makes it a premium wood forbending and staining.


American maple

(Acer saccharum, Acer nigrum, Acer rubrum)

Light, fine, hard and incandescent.


A close cousin of European maple and sycamore, American maple canreach heights of 23–27m, with a trunk diameter of 75cm. This projectuses two botanical subspecies, hard and soft maple, which share similarcharacteristics and are both relatively abundant. Hard maple is acold-climate species favouring the northern states, whereas soft maplesgrow more widely across the mixed hardwood forests of the easternUnited States. Both hard and soft maple produce syrup.


American cherry

(Prunus serotina)

Rich, smooth, vibrant and flexible.A medium-size tree, reaching a height of around 20m, cherry has arelatively short rotation, taking less time to mature than other hardwoods.The narrow sapwood is a light pinkish colour, while the heartwoodvaries from rich red to reddish brown, and darkens on exposure to light.American cherry had a long period of popularity in furniture making;it became less popular but is on the verge of a revival.


June 7, 2022
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