Under Pressure

Shaping extremely strong wood from easily grown species rather than destroying tropical or equatorial forests: a dream which is coming true. At the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a team of scientists led by Parviz Navi has devoted over 10 years of research to this challenge. In the early 2000s, their lab successfully produced 4cm samples of densified wood through a complex treatment combining pressure, temperature and steam to eliminate porosity. Even better, this processing gives the object a stable shape, without any resin or other additive – the piece remains pure wood. In 2010, the EPFL+ECAL Lab took over the machine and research results to take the project to the next level by increasing object size and highlighting the diversity of possible textures and shapes. In cooperation with the machine’s designer Fred Girardet and the Laboratory for Timber Constructions (IBOIS-EPFL), the EPFL+ECAL Lab was able to offer three groups of designers the opportunity to explore the material’s potential and to devise specific functions and a formal language. BIG-GAME (Switzerland) with its trio made up of Grégoire Jeanmonod, Elric Petit and Augustin Scott de Martinville, the founders of Normal Studio Jean-François Dingjian and Eloi Chafaï in Paris, as well as young French designer Léa Longis, took up the challenge. Their initial series of objects is the subject of the exhibition.