Leaving a legacy

Leaving a legacy


London’s top cultural leaders collaborate with influential designers to create a ‘legacy’ piece in American red oak for London Design Festival.

In May of 2019 Sir John Sorrell CBE, Chairman of London Design Festival, invited leaders of London’s cultural institutions to collaborate with some of Europe’s most exciting designers to create a ‘legacy’ piece of design – an object of personal or professional relevance that they would like to pass on to a family member or the institution they lead.

The pieces – ten in total – are all crafted using American red oak. Nine of these beautiful and thought-provoking collaborations are on show in the Sculpture Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and one piece outside the Natural History Museum on Exhibition Road, for the duration of London Design Festival, 14-22 September 2019.

Legacy conveys the message of sustainability in multiple ways. In the face of global environmental challenges, any new objects we create should be designed with the intention to last and to be passed on through generations – whether to family or to an institution.

The pieces also celebrate an abundant species of hardwood, American red oak, which is an expanding resource in North America, and regenerates naturally in vast amounts. In fact, red oak makes up nearly one fifth of all hardwood volume in the American forest and even when harvesting is taken into account, the volume is increasing every year by over 21 million cubic metres – equivalent to five Wembley stadiums.

Wood is renewable and easily recycled. It is low impact and a carbon store – each cubic metre of red oak keeps more than one tonne of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for as long as the product is in use. Legacy aims to showcase what this timber is capable of and just how versatile and beautiful it can be.

The project is in collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), whose European Director, David Venables, spearheaded the idea, and Benchmark Furniture whose Berkshire workshop made all of the pieces over the summer.

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