For all the talk about eco-friendly furniture — about domestic-wood tables and Greenguard-certified shelving and guiltless hemp stacking chairs — the industry’s still got a dirty little secret: Manufacturing is a big fat drain on the environment. Think how much energy goes into dispatching a chair down the assembly line. Who cares if the upholstery is 100%-certified organic?
Osso, the latest chair from French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, shows another, greener way. Dreamed up for the tiny, family-run Italian manufacturer Mattiazzi, the chair is made entirely out of wood sourced from the surrounding region, then sliced into deceptively simple shapes using solar-powered CNC-milling equipment. In the brothers’ telling, collaborating with Mattiazzi is comparable to “work with an organic farm.”
Some context: CNC milling is the new hotness in modern furniture nowadays, because it lets designers experiment with complex forms that’d be tough to pull off using standard manufacturing and too expensive to carve manually. But CNC tools are machines, like any other, and they take a toll on the environment.
Here, the Bouroullec brothers managed to exploit CNC technology to create fresh, complicated shapes, without the attendant carbon footprint. Note, in the image above, the ultra-smooth surface of the seat and the connectors cut into the legs that make the chair fit together like a puzzle. Those details, which give the chair a lovely, quiet elegance, wouldn’t be possible without CNC milling. They’re also a monument to efficiency in their own right. With a built-in attachment mechanism, the chair doesn’t need additional hardware to stay in one piece, which means it consumes fewer materials overall — more good news for the earth.