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Tue Jul 25 2017

Plywood: Material Of The Modern World - Victoria & Albert Museum

Armchair, Alvar Aalto, 1932, Finland. © Alvar Aalto Museum. Photograph Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photograph Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Ice skating shelters, Patkau Architects, 2012, Winnipeg. © Patkau Architects

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum's latest exhibition focuses solely on the development of plywood, and the impact it has had on all areas of design for the past 150 years.

Whilst plywood has been used within engineering since the 1860’s, the recent rise in use of the material within the interiors and architecture spheres have kept the design sector talking, and for good reason. The creative process in which plywood is manufactured and the durability of the material is utterly fascinating, and something that many of us have very little awareness of – despite this material being found in so many areas of our lives.

Whilst plywood started making inroads into furniture from the 1930’s onwards, in the 21st century we’re now seeing it used in a much more ‘stripped down’ way – with an emphasis on exposing the rough and chaotic grains of mish-mashed wood – perhaps responding to consumer’s desire to see more of a ‘story’ in their interior materials, not to mention the more striking design characteristics it can portray.

We also found out that plywood is becoming more popular within the digital and tech sectors due to its strength and sustainability, and its ability to be paired easily with CAD technology. It’s proliferation within contemporary design has developers and architects now indulging in large-scale wood projects, helping with sustainability and ecology targets that many developers and architects are now subject to.

Whether it’s used to build modes of transport or to simply use decorative panelling within the home, we found that the possibilities of plywood are endless and that the material really has helped to shape the modern world we live in.

Charlotte Waddilove