Artek and Formafantasma “propose new aesthetic of sustainability”

To celebrate the longevity of its 90-year-old Stool 60 design, Artek has launched a new collection that embraces the natural imperfections of wild birch wood.

Finnish design brand Artek has collaborated with design studio Formafantasma to mark the 90th anniversary of its Stool 60 designed by Alvar Aalto, in a bid to encourage what it calls a “wider, wilder, and more responsible” use of wood.

Over 80% of Artek furniture, including Stool 60, is made from birch trees which are grown, felled, and seasoned in Central Finland. Generally, the wood originates from mixed forests within a 250km radius of the Viitasaari sawmill, where it is cut into planks, transported to Artek’s factory near Turku, and slowly air-dried.

Photo credit: Bryan Saragosa

Artek managing director Marianne Goebl says that “modern production methods are combined with skilful handcrafting” to manufacture Artek furniture, employing Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto’s innovative methods for bending solid wood.

Previously, Artek has selected wood according to very strict criteria but for this latest project, the company has reassessed its standards, according to Goebl. The company’s current selection criteria favours regularly grained wood that does not display any natural marks while the new criteria allows for features such as bark striations, dark stains, wood knots, as well as trails left by wood-boring insects which Goebl says are “increasingly prevalent in Finnish timbers”.

Photo credit: Mikko Ryhänen
Read more: Should Scandinavian furniture design diversify its material choices?

In line with these new standards, Artek has introduced a new wood selection into its collection – wild birch – to showcase the natural marks of wood which, in turn, allows for more of the tree to be used. A new version of Stool 60 Villi is the first product to emerge from this collection, which seeks to highlight the impact of climate change and the industrialization of forests 90 years after its initial conception.

Photo credit: Bryan Saragosa
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Making use of more of the tree maximises opportunities to store CO2, as the longer a tree is left growing in the forest, the more CO2 it will store. Goebl reveals that the birch trees used in Artek furniture are 50 to 80 years old and absorb CO2 throughout their lifetime. She confirms that the furniture made from the trees can continue storing CO2 for at least as long as it did in its first natural life.

Artek’s new wild birch collection looks to “celebrate the quality of imperfection, in which natural marks are proudly shown, making every product unique”, says Goebl. As a result, the introduction of wild birch “proposes a new aesthetic of sustainability”, she adds.

To further celebrate Stool 60’s 90th anniversary and highlight its long-lasting nature, Artek is now offering a lifetime warranty on the furniture piece.

Banner image credit: Mikko Ryhänen

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