When products are faulty, companies recall and fix them. But when products become outdated, who corrects them? Broached Commissions does. As part of the 2021 Melbourne Design Week, Broached Commissions exhibited Broached Recall, a showcase of 12 modern pieces repurposed from Victorian-era antiques.
Broached Commissions is a research-driven studio that uses narratives strategies to find a new purpose for old designs. It is more than just an upcycling process, for each work starts with an investigation into its production and material history so that the final design can retell its story. In this way, Broached Commissions saves the high-value timber trapped in outdated furniture, elevating its status while drawing on the narratives inherent in the material. True to its mission, the Broached Recall exhibit told a story about design – and culture – in the Victorian and modernist eras.
True to its mission, the Broached Recall exhibit told a story about design – and culture – in the Victorian and modernist eras.
The exhibition, which was shown as part of Melbourne Design Week 2021, featured a collection of limited edition furniture pieces. Partnering with Elton Group, specialist importers of timber veneers, Broached Commissions used historical and modern timber elements to create one-of-a-kind cabinets. Veneers harvested from Victorian-era antiques were combined with modern timber composite to create the 12 pieces. The layering motif repeated through these objects demonstrates an interplay between the old and the new. While the veneers each stand out independently, they also rest on each other to read as a cohesive design.
From small artistic objects to complex bespoke works, the geometric layering captures a dialogue between past and present. Though exquisite in its detailing, Victorian-era furniture prioritised aesthetics and the ‘olden days’ of the Gothic period. Modernist design, on the other hand, celebrates simplicity and the present. Combine both periods, and the nostalgia of an idealised past becomes interpreted with greater nuance.
The exhibition, which was shown as part of Melbourne Design Week 2021, featured a collection of limited edition furniture pieces.
These pieces, though visually similar, each tell a unique story. Old German fruitwood from the Biedermeier era is stacked with modern timber, creating a monolithic cabinet of nut-brown and vivid blue layered colours. American birds eye maple from the 1980s is contrasted with black-filmed wood, producing a minimal coffee table block with a sliding front panel to hidden storage. Finally, Tasmanian eucalyptus burl, harvested initially during the 1970s, is juxtaposed with a teal timber composite, forming a side table with a secret drawer.
Not only was Broached Recall a showcase of beautiful and well-crafted objects, but more significantly, an opportunity to appreciate how precious timber lost in outdated designs can be brought back to life. In the process, the exhibit spoke to a complicated history of colonisation and exploitation of natural resources – one that remains intertwined with contemporary culture.