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Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures

The V&A Museum has launched a 10-year project, Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures, dedicated to exploring the use of renewable, natural materials – particularly in light of the climate crisis – and the future of sustainable forestry in design and architecture.

Supported by the designer and furniture maker John Makepeace OBE, the programme encourages ideas of stewardship of natural resources and invites practitioners from different disciplines ranging from science, design, forestry and academia to share research, knowledge and skills.

The programme aims to question the responsibilities of designers and consumers towards the natural world at this moment of crisis.”

Johanna Agerman Ross, lead curator of Make Good

Make Good encompasses an annual display, symposium and programme of acquisitions dedicated to looking at the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture.

We take a closer look at the components of this admirable project, one we’re excited to see unfold over the next decade…


What can the forest teach us?

That is one of the key questions which runs through the From the Forest display of contemporary design projects on show until 18 July 2022.

009 Bowls designed by Mac Collins for Vaarnii, 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Vaarnii

Featuring works from the V&A collection, and others on loan from makers, this display showcases design projects that engage with questions around environmental stewardship and the sustainable use of wood.

It prompts us to think about material use and its consequences, encouraging engagement with a topic that is now at the forefront of the debate around the climate crisis.

It brings together works of design and material experimentation from Playfool, Formafantasma, Gitta Gschwendtner, Mac Collins, Sebastian Cox, Fernando Laposse, Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw. The featured projects interrogate how forestry can teach circular and renewable production practices, and how wood can be used sustainably in design.

The From the Forest display at the V&A South Kensington. Image: Iconeye.com

The design of the From the Forest display itself – by V&A Design Studio – also embraces and explores aspects of local sourcing, managed forestry, renewable material and design for reuse in an effort to contribute to the museum’s goals to eliminate waste, reduce carbon and improve the sustainability of temporary displays.

Certain display elements are made from coppiced hazel and ash grown in Essex and Bedfordshire. Coppicing is the woodland management technique of repeatedly felling trees at the base and allowing them to regrow, in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber. Split hazel has been woven to provide structure to the vertical screens used for display, utilising an endangered traditional craft.

The interests of growing timber, manufacturing and ecology can be symbiotic, as shown by traditional and some evolving systems. Timber is a uniquely precious source of structural material and the sustainable management of woodlands can be the most effective way of enriching diverse habitats for wildlife.”

John Makepeace OBE


Plant, Care, Cut and Make.

The V&A, Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures 2022

The Make Good symposium, held in February 2022 , was dedicated to looking at the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture.

The programme invited designers, scientists, manufacturers and academics to share their insight during an afternoon of thought-provoking talks about forests and their influence on design, with speakers including Formafantasma, Gitta Gschwendtner and Sebastian Cox.

It considered the care of forests and what forestry can teach us about circularity in design via four parts: Plant, Care, Cut and Make. Speakers examined everything from urban forestry, the ten golden rules for reforestation and the world’s largest reference library for identifying wood to what forests mean culturally, environmentally and economically and various unique approaches to sourcing local materials.


Embed the rethink.

Bodge Bench by Gitta Gschwendtner, 2010, W.1-2022. Photo: © Jason Orton

Make Good will also undertake a number of acquisitions to embed the rethink and overall thinking of the programme in the V&A’s permanent collection.

The first acquisition is the Bodge Bench by Gitta Gschwendtner created in 2010 using English ash and sycamore. The bench will form part of the From the Forest display and is made using a traditional type of making called ‘bodging’ or ‘chair bodgering’.

Bodging is the traditional way of creating Windsor chairs from green timber using only hand tools, close to where a tree is felled. The approach avoids the carbon cost of transporting the wood before putting it to use.

An evocative example showing a woodlands’ capacity to nurture creativity, the Bodge Bench exemplifies the beauty of basic making traditions.


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