features
#022 / 1999

editorial by David Greig

Boldly "beyond borders"

By the early 1990s, Finland was facing problems in its forest sector similar to those plaguing British Columbia: diminishing timber supply and an under-performing wood products manufacturing sector. In 1995, the Finnish Timber Council formed the Finland Wood Innovation Project to increase the use and value of processed wood and to stimulate the production of products of value, and to create permanent, skilled employment and new enterprises.

The Council's first major initiative was the International Wood Innovation Competition to promote the use of Finnish wood which received almost 400 entries from around the world. Prizes were awarded in two broad categories: innovation in construction, living and the environment, and innovation in industrial wood products. Some of the winning entries are illustrated in the April 1996 issue of Form/Function Finland (available at the ECIAD library), including Vancouver furniture designer Christian Blyt's Wavewood proposal, which took top honours for the best application of Finnish wood in furniture and interior design.

In our part of the world, Forest Renewal BC (FRBC) also held a competition in 1996. Unlike the approach taken in Finland, FRBC's "Beyond Boards" was limited to entries from within the province. Again almost 400 entries were received; however, the results (which can still be seen on the FRBC Website) were quite different. A majority of entries were more oriented toward craft rather than industrial production and fell short of the Finnish competition entries, most notably in terms of innovative design and use of technology.

employment in BC
value-added industries

*

(PricewaterhouseCoopers)

per cent increase in BC and Canadian furniture and fixture shipments 1994 to 1997 (1994 = 0 per cent)

*

(Statistics Canada, 31-203)

FRBC may well be satisfied with their competition efforts - indeed, the recent issue of the Renewal Reporter, delivered to doorsteps throughout the province, would suggest that the crown corporation remains infatuated with crafted, hand-hewn creations in terms of furniture design. While there is value in craft, it is unlikely to lead us out of the woods by way of establishing a dynamic, prosperous wood products manufacturing sector. And, though it is supportive of woodworkers exploiting wood that major timber companies consider to be waste, FRBC is doing nothing to redirect prime timber away from deep sea vessels and railcars and into workshops and factories right here. (Employment levels are stagnant and growth in the BC furniture sector is about 25 per cent of the national average.)

Our timber is already widely used by designers and furniture manufacturers around the world. FRBC could expose local manufacturers to international expertise with our resources by holding another competition that this time calls for entries "Beyond Borders."

David Greig: graduated from the industrial design program at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (ECIAD) in 1998. He is principle of 260 Systems Limited which provides services to interior design and architectural firms. Currently he is using mainly BC wood species to design a new range of furnishings.

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© furniturelink and David Grieg 1999 (text and images)