Bespoke Furniture & Product Winner 2015
Designer: Gareth Neal in collaboration with Zaha Hadid
Maker/Manufacturer: Benchmark Furniture
Wood Supplier: Lathams
Client/Owner: Zaha Hadid as part of the Wish List project
Wood Species: American White Oak
For this project, Zaha Hadid was invited to collaborate with Gareth Neal, commissioning him to create a bespoke design for something Hadid has always wanted but had never been able to find. The brief was simple, to create some form of tableware from wood. Neal approached the project by thinking about he fluid dynamic of Hadid’s designs. The water carafe idea emerged from considering the liquid nature of her work, but juxtaposing that with a functional element. He was invited to go to Hadid’s office and work with her design team, using the company’s modeling software to create the vessel. From this came the idea of extruding the form along one of its axes with a slit opening at the end that allowed the viewer to look into a cathedral like space. He was interested in the idiosyncrasies of traditional hand processes such as a hand-thrown pot or a raised piece of silverware, and how simulating these could be achieved through digital imitation. The vessels were made in 2 parts on a CNC machine during a weeklong stay at Benchmark. Benchmark had to upgrade its software, as the designs really pushed the boundaries of the machine.
All designers involved in ‘The Wish List’ used the most abundant US timbers, illustrating their diversity. While the proportion of timbers produced in the US remains relatively unchanging, fashion means that demand rises and falls. Producers cannot respond because the lifecycle of a tree is relatively long. This is not just a business issue for the producers but also one of sustainability. The Wish List project aimed to showcase innovative approaches to material use and Gareth’s choice of American White Oak was no exception. White Oak is the second most abundant species of Eastern American Hardwood. Known for its strength, it is a relatively heavy timber, with good machining properties.
Further Sustainability Information: Scrutinising and measuring all environmental impacts was a vital part of The Wish List project. AHEC carried out Life-cycle Environmental assessment on the 2 vessels and found the carbon footprint equivalent to 341 car miles. A significant proportion of the vessels’ carbon footprint is due to the use of grid energy to power the CNC machine. A significant volume of waste wood arising during manufacture was diverted to energy production.