Signed & sealed : Agenda 21 and the role of the furniture designer-maker in developing a sustainable practice
The aim of this thesis has been to develop and document a research project that takes the form of a strategic response by a furniture designermaker (Philip Koomen Furniture) to the challenging ecological issues raised by the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) and detailed in the document Agenda 21: Sustainable Development for the 21st Century. A Literature Review contextualises this research project in relation to issues around global resources and sustainable practices and considers various models of sustainable design in relation to the commercial mainstream but more particularly with regard to the role of the furniture designermaker in contemporary society. The thesis explores the rationale for what became termed the “Signed & Sealed” project and describes the development of an associated body of designs through the negotiation of the degraded state of the U.K.’s native woodlands and the location of three critical strands which together came to define the “Signed & Sealed” brand – strands identified by the terms semi-bespoke, local cycle and unique signature. These terms are illuminated in turn by discussion of the commissioning processes favoured by designer-makers and by consideration of the economic and aesthetic problems to be found in connection with the sourcing, development and use of local, noncommercial timbers. The thesis also describes the project’s formal presentation in the exhibition “Out of the Woods” (River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames, 17 September 2004 to 7 January 2005) and the two conferences “Our Woods in Your Hands” (River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames, 25 September 2004) and “Out of the Woods: Design for Sustainability” (River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on- Thames, 20 October 2004) and considers the peer reviews and responses which followed these events. Finally, the thesis offers a critical evaluation of the PhD research process which framed the project together with some discussion of further potential avenues of research and development.