The 1858 collection is one born out of nature. Conceived as display furniture for the exhibition Cambio at Serpentine Galleries1 in London, the collection by Italian studio, Formafantasma, is made from spruce wood sourced from the Val di Fiemme in Northern Italy. The timber was taken from a single tree among fourteen million that were felled by Storm Vaia over the course of a few days in October 2018. 1858 is the year in which the tree developed its first ring.
Before we analyse the design of this collection, first we need to learn about the circumstances which led its creation. The removal of the trunks from the forest was vital in order to avoid the release of CO2 that occurs naturally when timber begins to decay. If left, the extraordinary number of fallen trees can cause phyto; sanitary problems for the remaining forest.
The Italian design duo behind Formafantasma, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, wanted to resist the traditional ephemerality of exhibition furniture and have this collection become available to be used in other public and private spaces to be enjoyed for years to come.
The collection itself is designed to function as tables, bookshelves, chairs, and benches rather than abstract exhibition displays. Composed of spruce, known to be soft and rarely used in furniture design, Formafantasma wanted to make these pieces long lasting and so decided to lacquer the wood with synthetic resin used in musical instruments. Its translucent finish allows the grain of the wood to remain visible while sealing the surface.
Working from their studio in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Andrea and Simone embrace a broad spectrum of typologies and methods, from product design through spatial design, strategic planning, and design consultancy. Their portfolio is characterised by a coherent visual language that certainly draws on minimalist sensibilities, exemplified by 1858.