Exhibition Preview | Plywood Material of the Modern World at the V&A

July 15, 2017

V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World chairs, furniture icons of modern design

 

Image: Design Soda|Plywood: Material of the Modern World at the V&A, sponsored by MADE.COM

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This week I went along to the press preview of the V&A’s Plywood: Material of the Modern World exhibition which opens to the public today. Maybe it’s the sign of a true design geek, but when one of the lovely people at MADE mentioned recently that they were going to be sponsoring an exhibition at The V&A on plywood I was pretty excited to see it. As any lover of Mid-Century design worth their salt will tell you, plywood (and the curves it allows in furniture) are central to this design schools aesthetic.  It was a favoured material of mid-century design icons Charles & Ray Eames and if you’re a Scandi lover then ply is probably on your radar too, think Alva Aalto or Arne Jacobsen (both have pieces on display in the exhibit).

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V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World Alva Aalto ChairV&A Plywood Material of the Modern World P31 chair

Images: Design Soda|Plywood: Material of the Modern World at the V&A, sponsored by MADE.COM

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Wood is so central to Interiors, it provides warmth, can ground really good design, connects the inside space to the natural world and when it’s well crafted it can be the central focus of a room. The popularity of plywood is down to its sheer versatility. Ply is made up of lots of thin layers of wood traditionally cut on a lathe which are then glued together to bond the separate pieces into one sheet with impressive strength when compared to hardwood. I love the edging of ply on modern furniture design, the gradient lines adding to the charm of a piece which become a feature in themselves.

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V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World mid-century chairV&A Plywood Material of the Modern World Exhibition Preview

Image: Design Soda|Plywood: Material of the Modern World at the V&A, sponsored by MADE.COM

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Christopher Wilk, the exhibition co-curator describes Plywood as “such a common, everyday material that most people barely notice when it is used. One could say that it has been hidden in plain sight”. I rather like this description, it can be such a common or garden material, and yet when used with thought it can create such stand out pieces. It also feels like a democratic material, its affordability making it a great material for many new designers and makers around at the moment, particularly with the use of CNC machines to translate design into product.

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V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World veneers, cars, surfaces V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World aLVAR aALTO modernist chair

Images: Design Soda|Plywood: Material of the Modern World at the V&A, sponsored by MADE.COM

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The exhibition covers the history of plywood use from its emergence in the nineteenth century to its use on cars and fighter planes in the early twentieth century, via the great exhibitions, building facades and pre-fabs, to the modern world of CNC machines used in contemporary design. But the real stand out part of the show was, for me, the furniture, Alvar Aaltos’s modernist chair (main image at very top of piece, and detail above) for a Finnish sanatorium in the 1930’s being my standout piece. 

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V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World materials V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World Modern Plywood in design V&A Plywood Material of the Modern World mid-century chair detail

Images: Design Soda|Plywood: Material of the Modern World at the V&A, sponsored by MADE.COM

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As a part of the show MADE have produced a number of pieces in Plywood which will be on sale in the V&A’s shop and on MADE’s website. I’m a little in love with the mirror below (and actually the memo board too) now contemplating its use in our hallway refresh that we’ll be undertaking in September.

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MADE.COM plywood collection for the V&A shop

Image: MADE.COM

For now, I’m going to leave you with a selection of my current favourite pieces of home design that use plywood as their central material. Enjoy.

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Modern Plywood Furniture Design Icons

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Cornell Desk, MADE.COM. Modern Wood Table, By Alex. Funkis House, Ferm Living. Eames Chair, Vitra. G-Rocking Chair, Houzz.  Visu Chair, Muuto.

The exhibition Plywood: Material of the Modern World, sponsored by MADE.COM, opens today at the Victoria & Albert Museum, check website for visitor details.  

 

 

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