Although there’s now global awareness of sustainability and the aesthetics of recycling are accepted, the use of scraps has not yet developed into an industry
Recycling wood is one of the common and efficient ways to mitigate our impact on the environment, and carpenters eager to tackle this challenge are emerging from all over the globe. Both Indian Baro Design and Italian Laquercia21 are creating furniture from reclaimed wood, starting from two different cultures. Siddarth Sirohi’s approach is a philosophical one, born from speculation and reading: «All Baro Design’s pieces show the same principles, blending Bauhaus with a Japanese and Indian sensibility. I keep in mind a series of concepts that I use like a compass starting with balance, not conceived as symmetry but as equilibrium between form and function, between the materials used, between your agency and what the wood suggests with its form. Weightlessness is a concept I found in Milan Kundera’s book ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. I removed the unbearable as it is a desirable quality. We build objects and furniture that are light in appearance, creating space. Sustainability is part of Baro Design’s, as we work with reclaimed teak and give a second life to wood that has been discarded».
For Laquercia21, an artisanal laboratory born ten years ago in Umbria, theory it’s important but the workshop’s the real deal: «Design is useful, it’s only dealing with the materials that you can create a proper composition: you can’t sacrifice the beauties of salvaged materials to execute a drawing. We use construction materials as if they were a painter’s palette, combining old and new. Wood is the center of our work, flanked by iron, fabrics, linoleum, creating the contrasting effects we’re looking for». Regardless of the philosophy behind it, one of the main challenges of recycling wood is finding the right pieces in the right conditions, a task easier to accomplish for Siddarth «In India, when a building comes down every bit of it is reused. When it comes to sustainability our behavior is driven by necessity. The scrapped materials are selected and sold to vendors, and you have to navigate a web of contacts to find the supplies. When the source is not far, you can learn of the material’s history». Italy’s situation is a complex one from this standpoint: Laquercia21’s carpenters have to fight for the best scraps «most of the recycled wood we use comes either from old doors, from the decommissioning of old farmhouses’ beams or from the second-hand construction market: these are our three main sources of materials.
Over time we have built a supply chain, since finding those recovered goods is all but a simple task. Although there’s now global awareness of sustainability and the aesthetics of recycling are accepted, the use of scraps has not yet developed into an industry. In Umbria there have always been people who have collected old doors or terracotta tiles from abandoned buildings, and some of these people are our suppliers. Unfortunately, they are not institutionalized figures and it is difficult to organize a real network, since many of them have no presence on the web. In other areas of northern Italy, such as Trentino, there is an organized tradition of recovery where wood from houses is converted into planks for parquet, but these are supply chains very difficult to interact. While in India the state’s neutral about recycling processes, Italy’s taxmen pose a real threat «I’ll tell you a little anecdote: during a control that took place about three years ago, an INAIL inspector came to see us and applied a higher insurance rate, therefore higher annual costs, because according to him we used too much recovered wood instead of what we declared. The situation is bad, but something is moving: recently the Municipality of Narni, where we have our laboratory, is starting a project that opens the recycling areas to companies interested in reusing waste materials». When asked about why they have chosen wood, both enterprises were eager to express their fascination, a spiritual connection or an appreciation for tangible characteristics. Siddarth feels himself driven to it by its meaning and history «It was born as a tree and has lived a life before being shaped to become an object. Its existence is recorded in its characteristics as form, color and volume. I sense a connection with wood because it is a living being: far from the tree that was, it breathes, it expands and it contracts. The process of treating it is spiritual, like breathing life into an idol».
Laquercia21’s founders are fond of its flexibility in the design process, able to give birth to lots of pieces none akin to the other «wood is a material that gives us many possibilities because it can be recycled even in small amounts, as with iron it’s most of the time an all-or-nothing situation. Wood allows, unlike many other materials, nip and tuck, for example we can make doors for kitchen cabinets gluing together various pieces of recycled wood from various suppliers. This method depends on a tradition rooted in north Umbria, dedicated to recreating antique furniture with antique wood since the 70s. One of our masters made Louis XVI sideboards using wood from the 1500s and 1600s and we work with a similar idea, keeping part of the history of the wood inside the new piece we are creating. Wood is interesting because of its modularity and the possibility of creating emergent meaning by using different types of reclaimed materials within different works». Aside from their perspectives, Baro Design and Laquercia21 converge on the producing ethos, centered on a workshop instead of a factory. This is the real strength of artisanal craftsmanship: create from scraps something that can last, fleeing the planned obsolescence that plagues most of the industrial goods and offering an escape route from the negative impact of mass-produced cheap furniture.
Baro Design is a Mumbai based studio that brings design through focus on handcrafted furniture and lighting. The approach is old school, relying on traditional wood joinery methods, but the result is as timeless as it is contemporary. They work with reclaimed teak for its age and quality, and to keep our world sustainable.
Laquercia21 is a design workshop born in 2010 from the encounter of two carpenters. The workshop is located in the Umbrian countryside. Laquercia21 is an eclectic container that collects and mixes ideas and techniques from various fields: contemporary design, traditional craftsmanship, art, vintage-pop culture, eco-design. In the laboratory are performed craftsmanship, preferring the philosophy of the unique piece than mass production.