Always Welcome and the American Hardwood Export Council team up for Future Heirlooms 2024

The designs of the previous edition of Future Heirlooms (Image: AHEC)

Always Welcome and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) are collaborating on the launch of the second iteration of Future Heirlooms, a project exploring the future of sustainable South African design.

The 2024 edition engages participants from cross-disciplinary backgrounds with a focus on the South African interior design and architecture communities. The designers have been invited to design an object for domestic use using American red oak.

In line with the Future Heirlooms theme, they have to design a piece that lasts for generations to come and be of a quality that makes it worth keeping, and of collectible value.

For the design, designers might look to the contemporary furniture market to create something that will have a unique presence in the marketplace, not necessarily a commercial one. Designers are also encouraged to consider antique typologies to reinterpret an object that was once useful, or relevant to the age, but is no longer commonplace.

Equally, designers can look ahead to new typologies to create an object that could be of value in a rapidly changing future. The spirit of the challenge is to celebrate individuality, expressionism, quirkiness, and beauty in the design of the limited edition collectible piece.

“The five selected African designers have the unique opportunity to create an object that not only looks forward to the future of sustainable design, but also explores their own heritage and the story of South Africa’s rich design legacy,” said Roderick Wiles, AHEC regional director.

“The hand-picked participants represent a diverse set of African design practitioners across multiple fields. From architecture, to interior design, design education, costume design, creative direction, art curation and branding disciplines, Future Heirlooms 2024 celebrates the cross-pollination between disciplines as a vital aspect of African design.”

Participants for the 2024 edition include Moea Design Studio Duo (Cassandra Twala, designer and multidisciplinary creative entrepreneur, and Johanna Von Stein, designer and architect); HerArtFelt Studio (Juliet M Kavishe, interior architect and design educator); Earthworld Architects (Andre Eksteen, architect and academic); Isa- MBU- LA Ndabo (Langa – architect and founder of DGIT architects and Bandile Mbuli – indigenous craft inspired creative director and costume designer); and Nkuli Ni. Nhleko, art curator at Everard Read Gallery and the founder of Imbewu Design, an interior design studio.

The 2022 edition of Future Heirlooms set the calibre and the tone for this year’s edition through the successful first round of the call. Created in American red oak by celebrated hardwood furniture designer-manufacturers Houtlander and timber importers BOS Timbers, the seven pieces — by Dokter and Misses, MashT Design Studio, The Urbanative, Kumsuka, Kalki Ceramics, Joe Paine in partnership with Nathan Gates, and NØDE Studio — were a celebration of material and memory, and asked pertinent questions about the current approach to the environment.

Future Heirlooms 2024 aims to kindle the relationship between product, interior design and architecture disciplines and visions in Africa; immerse designers in deep material knowledge of sustainable American hardwoods; enable designers to envision spaces that move beyond trend to embrace longevity, repurposing, and ecologically sound design and manufacturing practices; and embrace what one considers to be a salient African design value: sustainability and natural materials.

The American red oak for the project is once again being sponsored and supplied by wholesale timber specialists BOS Timbers. The team at BOS believe that investing in Future Heirlooms is investing in the growth of our design talent and marketplace, ultimately an investment in a shared future.

For Always Welcome, Future Heirlooms forms a part of a series of initiatives driven by their platform called AW/AGILE, committed to introducing, enabling and nurturing the pipeline of designers to meet the demand for Africa’s rising talent both locally and abroad.

“Building on the success of the launch edition of Future Heirlooms, our 2024 challenge will offer our select African cross-disciplinary designers a unique opportunity to design a piece that explores alternative manufacturing methods, and the beauty and versatility of American red oak itself. The finished pieces will then be seen as part of Sustainable Design Week Africa at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town from 10-14 Sep 2024. The project will allow us to work with upcoming and established South African designers and makers, while also helping them to work with an abundant, versatile and beautiful, yet lesser-known American hardwood species,” concluded Wiles.