AHEC campaign “Too Good to Waste” sheds light on rarely used American hardwoods

Too Good to Waste, a campaign that questions the current relationship between wood consumption and fashion, will debut at the Milan Design Week at Università degli Studi di Milano from 3 – 15 April. This bold timber installation comprises four individual and unique pieces, wrapped around the statuesque pillars of the entrance to the Aula Magna auditorium.

The interactive installation is designed by Benedetta Tagliabue of EMBT, crafted by furniture makers Benchmark and initiated by the American Hardwood Export Council.

Too Good to Waste invites end-users to discover species and grades of American hardwoods rarely found in homes or furniture stores.

Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder of Benchmark said, “Too Good to Waste is about using the forest to its effective maximum. We are using species that are not getting the value they should and we are using them to show that they are beautiful, versatile and useful woods for craftsmen.

“As picky cabinet-makers, have always been very fussy about using the best bits and that needs to change if we are to move to a more sustainable way of living. We are now using knots, sapwood and all sorts of character that 10 years ago would have been unthinkable in high end furniture.”

David Venables, AHEC European Director, added, “So many wood products available to us are limited to certain colours and hardwood species; it’s depriving consumers and designers the freedom and excitement to experience what comes from using much more of the material that is available.”

Vast American hardwood forest is a quickly expanding resource and the volume of its standing timber has more than doubled in the last 50 years. However, due to fashion and colour trends, demand is too often focused on just a few species, while many others are underused or left in the forest, which is a lost opportunity for design and carbon storage.

Too Good to Waste also reimagines the historic architecture of the Cortile d’Onore (the courtyard from the Renaissance period by the famous architect Filarete where the piece will be located), which features many decorative elements and human figures coming out of the walls.

Benedetta Tagliabue explains: “We wanted to re-create this concept in a playful and modern way by creating a wall full of surprises, where the people who inhabit the wall will be real. We hope that visitors, surprised by this installation, will want to interact with it, and that they will discover and use the pieces of furniture it hides: seats, tables, mirrors… We hope that their curiosity will make this piece very animated.” 


Cover image: Architects and makers review the drawings. From left, Oliver Tilbury and Sean Sutcliffe (Benchmark), Bendetta Tagliabue and Nazaret Busto (EMBT).