Perth-based designer Jack Flanagan’s spectacular reception wall at the Woods Bagot-designed West Australian headquarters of KPMG is a true insight into the design capabilities of American hardwood and why American hardwoods continually offer a genuinely beautiful, environmentally sustainable option for designers around the country.
The iconic Australian landscape has been an ever-present source of inspiration for designers and creatives the world over. The irresistible pull of our outback identity was the design stimulus behind the earthy tones and ashy black colour palette present throughout the interiors of the redesigned KPMG offices. Jack Flanagan drew upon his personal experiences with the unique West Australian coastline to create the vast curved timber wall that greets occupants in the reception area. Visually aligning with a spatial concept of curves, the wall was constructed from steam bent American black walnut and is an homage to the uniquely beautiful West Australian landscape. “After narrowing down the organic form of the wall, I brainstormed a number of potential manufacturing techniques including machining timber profiles to make up the overall shape,” states Jack. “The final solution was to steam bend the timber strips onto a metal frame to allow the form to look as organic as possible.”
When it came to selecting the most appropriate timber to bring his vision for the wall to life, Jack had to first consider the ability of the specified timber to bend efficiently. Eventually, he settled upon the smooth grains and deep chocolate tones of American walnut. “We had to see how far we could push the material in the steam bending process,” explains Jack. “Because every strip of walnut was steam bent and twisted to a different length and shape, we could not use supporting jigs so this presented a major challenge for the project.” Jack was able to overcome these challenges and channel the beauty of American walnut into a triumphant flowing form wall and seat that is equally visually impactful and ergonomically comfortable.
American hardwoods continually offer a genuinely beautiful, environmentally sustainable option for designers around the country.
The extraordinary design capabilities of American hardwoods are being experienced by an increasing number of Australian designers and design lovers across the country as they look to supplement traditional Australian timbers with viable alternatives. Roderick Wiles, director of the American Hardwood Export Council, expands on why Australians are so drawn to American hardwoods. “For Australians, American hardwoods offer a different look in terms of colour, grain and texture from what they are used to in indigenous hardwood species, such as Tasmanian oak or Victorian ash,” explains Rod. “They are also so widely used around the world by designers – particularly species such as American oak and walnut – that they are instantly recognised. For Australian designers wanting to enter the world design stage, it is a natural choice to work with hardwood species that are already well known.”
“We had to see how far we could push the material in the steam bending process.”
Jack Flanagan’s free-flowing wall is a demonstration of the design advantages of American hardwoods and the quality offered by specifying hardwoods from the United States. “In addition to aesthetics and their suitability for a wealth of applications, American hardwoods also offer continuity of supply at a consistent quality and following standard grading rules,” concludes Rod. “One of the most important qualities offered by American hardwoods is that the designer or manufacturer who chooses to work with them is dealing with a product that is known and understood and which is supplied by an industry which takes genuine pride in what it delivers.”