design for a sustainable future
Many businesses which have sustainability at the core of their activities are deeply rooted in their local communities and the traditions of design, quality and craftsmanship. They also manage to combine these traditions with the use of modern technologies and have a clear understanding of their markets. Benchmark - a furniture maker based in Berkshire, England - is an excellent example. The company was started by Sean Sutcliff and Terence Conran in 1984 with an ambition to make small production runs of innovative, modern English furniture.
Benchmark recently launched project Tree as show case for their skills. Tree is a gigantic 11.4m (37'5'') table made from a single plank of oak 'balanced' on a mirror polished stainless steel pyramid. Benchmark's design, working in collaboration with Mark Lovell from MLDE, is derived from the structure of a living tree, with the roots (the pyramid) anchoring it to the ground and the branches, under compression, supporting the load of the huge canopy. The result is a table that appears impossibly balanced but, in reality, can support the weight of four adults standing on one end.
The plank comes from a huge oak tree that was planted around 1870 in the Landes, South West France. It is the longest planked oak log that any of Benchmark's sources in the timber trade has ever known and took Benchmark over six months to locate. The plank comes from the very centre of the tree with the 'bull's-eye' of the annual rings running through the centre of the plank.
All timbers Benchmark used are certified by FSC or PEFC. In 2007, Benchmark was awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category, the first furniture maker to win this prestigious award.
Tree is for sale - www.benchmarkfurniture.com