AHEC Concludes A Successful Showcase Of Discovered In Singapore

From 16 to 22 May 2024, the Red Dot Design Museum played host to Discovered Singapore – a showcase of furniture designed by 10 emerging designers. The display was organised by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC).


All the pieces were created from American red oak, maple or cherry. 


Launch event

A launch event was held at the prestigious Red Dot Design Museum in Singapore. More than 80 prominent members from the design community, furniture manufacturers and retailers, timber distributors, as well as representatives from AHEC gathered to share knowledge and network.

The highlight of the session was a fireside chat with project mentor and legendary Singaporean Designer Nathan Yong and one of the participants chosen for the project, Singaporean designer Tan Wei Xiang. 

InDesign Editor, Janice Seow, facilitated a lively discussion around the challenges of designing for rapidly evolving consumer demands,  American hardwood as a material choice and sustainability of American hardwood.

“We are glad we were able to bring Discovered to Singapore. Design-focused Red Dot was an ideal partner for the display. This launch event gave us the opportunity to rekindle old connections and make new ones among established and emerging designers, design business leaders, specifiers, importers and media partners. Moving forward, the American Hardwood Export Council will continue to champion good design from sustainable American hardwood species.”

-John Chan, Regional Director Southeast Asia and Greater China, AHEC


Student tours

Over the course of the week, there were several groups of students that visited Discovered Singapore. Rod Wiles, AHEC Regional Director for MENA and Oceania, personally hosted a group of students from the National University of Singapore College of Design and Engineering and Singapore University of Technology and Design Faculty of Architecture and Sustainable Design.

Wiles gave the students insight into why American hardwoods are an environmentally responsible material choice for designers. The American forest has seen sustainably managed for generations and grows faster than it is being harvested. So efficient is the harvesting and processing in the US, that even when shipped from the US to any port in Southeast Asia, it arrives carbon negative. 

“We are heartened that so many different groups of students visited Discovered Singapore. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of influencing the next generation of designers. American hardwood continues to be a carbon store throughout the lifespan of the product for which it is used – we aim to encourage those choosing a career in architecture and design to think long term about their work. Good design, created from sustainable hardwood should outlive us all. 

– Rod Wiles, Regional Director MENA and Oceania, AHEC


Designs and designers


Nong Chotipatoomwan - Thought Bubble

Bangkok, Thailand

Wood: American red oak

A nostalgia for travel and social interaction guided Chotipatoomwan’s creative thinking through her project. Physical transitions were replaced with changing states of mind, and the physical realm merged with the psychological realm through domestic space. The designer looked at furniture created for relaxation, and landed on a rocking motion, which became the basis for her chair, offering a mix of relaxation and repetitive movement to enhance mindfulness. She used red oak for the chair because she was fascinated by its grain. ‘It’s quite expressive and I was interested in its porous nature.’ 


Kodai Iwamoto - Pari Pari

Tokyo, Japan

Wood: American red oak 


For his project, Iwamoto researched traditional Japanese techniques, such as uzukuri (giving texture to wood by scrubbing) and chouna (chiselling the surface with an adze), and then started experimenting directly on the wood, peeling its layers to create a new veneer. Working with red oak, he peeled it by cutting the panel’s edge and removing the surface by hand, resulting in a jagged effect where the texture of the grain emerges. These imperfectly textured panels became the starting point for a design exploration that led him to a round table shape, using the subtle material as a base to create the effect of an ancient tree trunk.


Mew Mungnatee - Corners Lamp

Bangkok, Thailand

Woods: American soft maple, cherry


Mungnatee’s emotional response to the objects surrounding her took in the relationship between form, light and shadow, and with this project, she explored this connection through geometry. Her lamp designs, inspired by pagodas, are based on a bulb casting a shadow over surfaces below thanks to an intricate grid composition featuring wooden slats and indented corners. She worked with soft maple, because of the manner in which light bounces off its surface (‘The wood has an opalescent gleam,’ she explains) and American cherry for its ability to take stain.


Trang Nguyen - The Roof Stool

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Woods: American cherry, red oak, hard maple


Nguyen looked at traditional Vietnamese roof tiles for her project, creating a collection of nesting stools that replicate the way the tiles overlap to hide the connecting structures below. Her simple stool design is inspired by traditional temple architecture and Vietnamese dresses, and features pins made of contrasting wood at the joint, which remains hidden when the stools are stacked and is revealed when they are in use. ‘I chose three different types of wood; cherry, red oak and maple, because of their colour differences,’ explains Nguyen. ‘By randomly using two of the species for the pins and another one for the rest for the stool, users can explore the various timbers when they unstack each piece.’ As people have been spending more time at home, her design is imagined to provide additional seats, while creating a beautiful composition when not in use.


Taiho Shin - Ikare

Seoul, Republic of Korea

Wood: American hard maple


During his time in isolation, Shin noted that ‘objects help human resilience through unusual situations’, and this thought served as the basis for his project. Guided by the ‘Ikea effect’ (consumers place higher value on products they partially created), he thought of a half-made design that users could partly assemble to foster interaction with their objects. He created one small table, put together thanks to an ingenious but simple-to-use joint system (no glue necessary), and the design multiplies to create a stackable system of shelves, suitable for different spaces. He chose hard maple, as the density of the timber means the joint can be moved in and out without crushing the fibre of the wood.


Ivana Taylor - Reframe

Adelaide, Australia

Woods: American hard maple, cherry and red oak


Taylor’s own experience of solitude led to extensive periods of reflection, ultimately inspiring her to change her approach to designing and making. For this project, she aimed to ‘design a contemplative sculptural object that triggered reflection on the multi-layered nature of any experience, including isolation’. A recurring theme of her research featured ways of framing a view at different scales, and the resulting design is a sculpture made from a series of small carved objects that layer to create a composition acting as a ‘sculpted path for light’. Working with three woods, Taylor was interested in exploring different material hollows, cutting each layer to expose the wood’s grain.


Yunhan Wang - Winding Stream

Zhuhai, China

Wood: American hard maple


Unable to carry out certain customs during lockdown, people are confined to performing rituals at home. There is a novel need for suitable furniture and objects that can fit a small space but serve the same purpose. Wang wanted to create a domestic alternative to the ‘winding stream party’, a Chinese drinking custom in which poetry is composed while a cup is floated down a stream with people sat on both sides; the person sitting in front of the cup that stops has to drink it. Inspired by Hakka round houses, Wang created a compact table design with storage concealed in the legs and a central slit to fit trays and cups. The table is also equipped with a drain so users can dispose of their water through the twisting gully, and it then trickles into a waste bucket housed in the main leg. Wang chose hard maple for Winding Stream because she was drawn to the light colour, and the timber has been spray-painted to prevent rot from setting in.


Vivienne Wong - luxta Me (Beside me)

Melbourne, Australia 

Wood: American cherry


Dancer-turned-designer Wong looked at non-verbal communication as the starting point of her project, approaching the task from a personal point of reflection and knowledge. ‘I wanted to translate my previous understanding of how we can connect and communicate,’ she says, and looked to create a piece to nurture strength, intimacy and connection. Invisible physical boundaries and the creation of textures through light formed the basis of the project, which developed into a coffee table featuring interlocking echoed forms, where the functional joinery also became a decorative motif for the piece. Wong chose American cherry because of its grain and colour. ‘It has a beautiful warmth in its pinkish, red hue,’ she says. ‘I felt that supported everything I was trying to put into this piece.’ Her design’s name (using the Latin word for ‘beside’) represents the desire for human connection and closeness that guided the process.


Tan Wei Xiang - Recollect


Woods: American hard maple, red oak 


Searching for a tangible physical connection to loved ones (beyond virtual calls), Tan turned to keepsakes as a way to fight nostalgia. His keepsakes cabinet is imagined as a way to hold, preserve and give respect to the items we hold dear. Its forms were inspired by Singapore’s ubiquitous construction sites and the ridged zinc sheets used to protect them. Tan recreated this motif as the outer shell of his tall, lean cabinet, and created curved shelves to sit inside it, with a mirrored, polished brass circle, mimicking the sun setting on the horizon. The designer had worked with maple before but never from the American hardwood forests and, for this project, he selected a combination of hard maple of different thicknesses to achieve the ‘crinkled’ effect on the shell, and red oak for the curved shelves inside.


Duncan Young - Shelter Within

Adelaide, Australia

Wood: American hard maple


Young focused on the materiality of timber, and how this organic material can help us connect with nature while confined at home. ‘For those in dense urban environments, lockdowns have impacted our physical and mental strength by limiting the biological need humans have for being in outdoor spaces,’ he says. He looked at studies analysing the positive impact of nature on physical and mental health, and in response created a modern cabinet of curiosities as a pillar to nature, for the user to engage with the natural world while at home. Featuring a solid carcass with discreet joinery and a moiré-effect shelf (a design inspired by the historic symbolism of the cabinet as a theatre), the simple plinth includes two glass sculptural elements handmade at Young’s studio, refracting and distorting the light to evoke the effect of walking beneath a canopy of trees. Young used hard maple to create the carcass. ‘It’s such a pared-back timber,’ he explains. ‘It has a gentle grain structure and I thought the lightness would soften the heaviness of my piece’s form.’

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  • Last modified on Monday, 24 June 2024 09:06
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