>So this month’s Icon had an article on the man behind the ‘Grassworks’ exhibition in the Aram Gallery that got me so excited at Design Week in London. The way in which I had perceived the exhibition was it was mostly a demonstration of the sustainable bamboo sheet material, and then secondary to this was showing the clever designs of the pieces. There were a number of statements about the speed at which bamboo grows and how it can be harvested again and again, and there were even little unfinished samples of the bamboo sheet to examine.
‘Grassworks (2008-2009) are a series of experiments in self-assembly furniture – a range that is designed to be simple, space-saving and wholly sustainable.’ Followed up by, ‘Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and can be harvested again and again from the same stalk.’
Unless I’ve got this completely wrong, the exhibition was called ‘Grassworks’ because bamboo is a grass. Sorry to state the bleedin’ obvious if I’m right in my interpretation, but this is important to highlight.
So I was very pleased to see Straschnow’s fully sustainable material getting the publicity it deserved, and keenly sat down to have a good read. The article begins by saying ‘at first sight, Straschnow’s furniture doesn’t look interesting.’ It continues by describing the exhibition as looking like ‘Habitat using the space for storage’, – anticipation building, and I read on. ‘But a closer look at the pieces reveals an innate intelligence.’ – I was captured at this point and was excited to see how they’d review the idea of bamboo furniture. But, in my opinion it went downhill from here. It talked a little about the clever construction of his pieces and mentioned the dovetail construction, then the second half of the article is almost entirely about how much of a rebel he is – illegally interweaving fences with public seating. His rebellious activities are certainly interesting, but not nearly as interesting as a renewable resource that could be widely used to replace MDF and other nasty sheet materials!!
I was disappointed to discover that Icon weren’t interested in telling us about the material at all; in the whole article it doesn’t explain, or even mention, the rapid growing, renewable, sustainable bamboo. I just didn’t understand why Straschnow’s fully sustainable material was not getting the publicity it deserved.
It could be the case that Jair Straschnow didn’t actually come up with this idea of the bamboo sheets, and so can’t claim it to be his. However I’m certain in the exhibition research papers were available justifying the material, and showing how it was tested etc. Perhaps it is the case that the writer of this article wasn’t interested in promoting sustainable materials, or accidentally majorly overlooked it. OR perhaps most other readers would find the stuff about his rebellious side more interesting than some bamboo pressed into sheets. OR… the use of this material is really widely known, so widely known that it doesn’t need to be mentioned or promoted in contemporary design magazines, and I havn’t stumbled across it my relatively short career as a designer. Who knows. If there was an article on his guerrilla designer activities I would certainly stop for a read, but I had expectations of this article to be about the ‘Grassworks’ that he is pictured with.
As you can probably tell, I was a little disappointed with the article as it didn’t in any way promote the material that I see as so important. Regardless of the way in which the article was written I still consider these products to be brilliant and, if read in the way in which I have, this work is a good example of contemporary designers taking responsibility for the sustainability of their work – something that, in my opinion, modern designers should be obliged to do.
Buy Icon and read the article for yourself, and have a look at Straschnow’s website.