Make Good: Rethinking material futures

Design, Architecture and Digital
February 22, 2022

This week marks the launch of a new programme at the V&A. Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures invites practitioners from different disciplines ranging from science, design, forestry and academia to share research, knowledge and skills. Supported by the designer and furniture maker John Makepeace OBE, the programme encourages ideas of stewardship of natural resources and considers the responsibilities of designers and consumers towards the natural world in a time of climate crisis.

‘forests precede people deserts follow’ poster, Oxfam, 1970s. Museum no: E.3020-1991 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

So how is that achieved? Make Good is a 10-year project that encompasses an annual display, symposium and programme of acquisitions dedicated to looking at the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture.

First out is the display, From the Forest, in the Susan Webber Furniture Gallery. Featuring works from the V&A collection, and others on loan from makers, the display features projects that engage with questions around environmental stewardship and the sustainable use of wood and other plants. The pieces prompt us to think about material use and its consequences, encouraging engagement with a topic that is now at the forefront of the debate around the climate crisis. From the Forest features works by contemporary designers such as Fernando Laposse, Gitta Gschwendtner, Mac Collins and Formafantasma and will remain open until Autumn 2022.

009 Bowls designed by Mac Collins for Vaarnii, 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Vaarnii

Secondly the V&A is hosting the inaugural Make Good symposium, which will take place in person at the museum on 23 February. Taking its cue from the first display it is dedicated to looking at the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture. Speakers include scientists such as Dr Kate Hardwick and Victor Declerck from Royal Botanic Garden, Kew and designer such as Sebastian Cox and Playfool. The event will be filmed and available here shortly.

Bodge Bench by Gitta Gschwendtner, 2010, W.1-2022. Photo: © Jason Orton

Finally, Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures will undertake a number of acquisitions to embed the rethink and thinking of the programme in the V&A’s permanent collection. The first acquisition is the Bodge Bench by Gitta Gschwendtner created in 2010. The bench will form part of the From the Forest display and is made using a traditional type of making called ‘bodging’ or ‘chair bodgering’. For this craft, chairs are made without power tools from freshly-cut wood close to where a tree is felled. It is an evocative example showing a woodlands’ capacity to nurture creativity.

In the coming weeks we will update this page with more information on the projects on display in From the Forest and post information from the first Make Good symposium.

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