On Cambio, Milano Animal City and forests
Formafantasma's Simone Farresin in dialogue with Stefano Boeri unfolds the themes of their recent exhibition Cambio opened in March at Serpentine Galleries in London but currently closed to the public due to the health emergency. Cambio deals with the processes behind the production of wood, critically looking at the use of this material in the practice of architects and designers. The designer expands the conversation with Stefano Boeri to discuss ecology, the presence of animals and greenery in our cities and his ongoing research Milano Animal City.
Formafantasma, Cambio, 2020
During the dialogue Simone Farresin and Stefano Boeri commented on some projects developed by the architect which gravitate toward the question: "How could we produce spaces where animals cohabit with us?".
In particular, Stefano Boeri focused on illustrating the Grand Paris project developed together with Andrea Branzi in 2008, which proposed a non-expansive program of intervention on the metropolis and the insertion of 50,000 sacred cows and 30,000 free monkeys in the parks and avenues of Paris. "Rethinking coexistence means imagining new spaces of reciprocity between different species and urban policies based on an inclusion principle that protects and increases biodiversity, the fundamental principle for the survival of our planet and therefore a central theme in the development of large cities.", commented Formafantasma's Simone Farresin.
Cambio, from the medieval Latin cambium, ‘change, exchange’, is an ongoing investigation conducted by Formafantasma into the governance of the timber industry. The evolution of this form of commerce over time, and its tentacular expansion across the globe, has made it difficult to regulate. It grew out of the bioprospecting that took place throughout colonial territories during the nineteenth century, becoming one of the largest industries in the world both in terms of the revenue it generates and the impact it has on the planet’s biosphere.
The earliest objects in the exhibition are samples of rare hardwoods first exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851, a few hundred metres from this building, which represent trees logged to the point of extinction. The newest are the exhibition display furniture and seating designed by Formafantasma, all of which were made from a single tree blown over in a storm in northern Italy in 2018. Contained in every piece of wood is an archive of climatic change and the movement of natural materials around the world.
Cambio also references the cambial layer, a membrane that runs around the trunk of trees, producing wood on the inside, a record of the tree’s past, and bark on the outside, enabling it to keep growing. Like the rings of a tree, the central spaces of the exhibition present data and research in the form of interviews, reference materials and two films made by Formafantasma in response to their research, while the perimeter spaces offer a series of case studies that provide insight into the way wood is sourced and used. Each of these investigations represents a collaboration with experts from the fields of science, conservation, engineering, policymaking and philosophy. Together, they move from a microscopic analysis of wood and its ability to store carbon dioxide, to a metaphysical understanding of trees as living organisms.
This multidisciplinary exhibition highlights the crucial role that design can play in our environment, and its responsibility to look beyond the edges of its borders. The future of design can and must attempt to translate emerging environmental awareness into a renewed understanding of the philosophy and politics of trees that will encourage informed, collaborative responses.
Formafantasma, Seeing the Wood for the Trees, 19:24”, Cambio, 2020
Formafantasma is the designer duo composed by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin. Their work explores issues such as the role of design in folk crafts, the relationship between tradition and local culture, critical approaches to sustainability and the meaning of objects as cultural channels. Cambio is their latest exhibition, currently on view at Serpentine Galleries in London.