It is said that from crisis comes great creativity. Featuring original and imaginative tables and seating of astonishing breadth, the Connected exhibition explores how designers and makers adapted their working practices during lockdown to bring sustainable timbers to life. Timed to coincide with England easing out of lockdown 2, the exhibition staged in the magnificent Design Avenue offers another opportunity to physically view the finished pieces up close.

An impressive rollcall of international names participated in the project including Heatherwick Studio (UK), Jaime Hayon (Spain), Ini Archibong (Switzerland), Sabine Marcelis (Netherlands), Maria Bruun (Denmark), Sebastian Herkner (Germany), Maria Jeglinska- Adamczewska (Poland), Studiopepe (Italy) and Studio Swine (UK / Japan).

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), Benchmark Furniture and the Design Museum challenged them to create pieces for their personal use, to suit their new ways of living and working from home. They were also invited to record their creative journeys to demonstrate how they approached the brief and developed their designs. 

Transforming an idea into reality takes passion, invention and vision; from seeing the potential of the timber and respect for artisan processes to an openness to innovation. With the designers relying solely on digital communication and video conferencing, the Connected exhibition reveals what extraordinary results can be achieved when designers and makers work together, even at a distance.

Originally launched in September at the Design Museum, the Connected exhibition has been enhanced for visitors to Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour. Top designers, architects, collectors and design enthusiasts can view a new documentary that takes the viewer on a journey through the entire process, from the designers’ workshops, through the American forests, and into the Design Museum. 

The design ethos of biophilia, meaning love of nature, may have already entered the mainstream, but the exhibition also reflects the growing groundswell in interiors for environmental merits and the impact of material choices. 

Wood is renewable and easily recycled. The Connected project presents three beautiful and underused timbers – American red oak, cherry and maple. They grow abundantly and make up 30% of the American hardwood forest and all contribute to its diversity and sustainability. With heat treatments and a variety of finishes, they are shown to be hugely versatile.

Another key design objective of the project was to ensure that the products are demonstrably sustainable. When considered as a group, the nine Connected designs are better than carbon neutral. The total global warming potential (GWP) - often referred as the “carbon footprint” - is minus 342 kg of CO2 equivalent. (Carbon neutrality is achieved as the carbon stored in the wood used for the designs, together with a small offset due to use of process waste for energy production, exceeds all carbon emissions during the extraction, processing and transport of raw materials, manufacturing at Benchmark, and delivery of the finished designs to the Design Museum). 

Generating a deeper understanding of design is at the heart of Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour’s online programming. Award-winning British designer Thomas Heatherwick will be in conversation at a Design Date at 4pm on Thursday 17 December 2020.

Claire German, managing director of Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour says: “We support creative expression across the design agenda, and we’re delighted to host Connected featuring original work by leading designers and makers with AHEC and Benchmark. Bursting with new perspectives, these collaborative partnerships during lockdown have resulted in extraordinary designs of enduring beauty and quality. Meticulous care, craftsmanship and respect for wood as a sustainable material has never been more relevant in our fast-paced world.”

“Having Connected showcased at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour is a really important moment for us,” added David Venables, European director of AHEC. “It gives designers an opportunity to engage with this beautiful exhibition of furniture and to learn about the possibilities of using American red oak, maple and cherry – much underused and sustainable materials – in interior environments. The beauty and versatility of the woods is something we are proud to share with this audience.”

“The designers who frequent Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour are some of the finest in the world, and for us to be able to show them what Benchmark can create with American hardwoods is a real opportunity to talk about craftsmanship and the importance of making quality pieces in a sustainable material,” says Sean Sutcliffe, founder of Benchmark Furniture.  “Some of the Connected designers really challenged us with their concepts and we feel the results demonstrate that our workshop can work to bring to fruition almost any idea thrown at us.”

Plan your visit

The health and wellbeing of visitors and showrooms are the Design Centre’s first priority, and there are many measures in place to ensure a safe visit to the Connected exhibition.

Entry is free and booking is not required.