features
#081 / 2007
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Less is better in Belgrade

Emerging from a turbulent past, a revitalized Belgrade of 1.6 million people is expanding its cultural and industrial base. Founded in 2005, the furniture and interior design department in the Faculty of Forestry, University of Belgrade, is helping connect the city to the world of sustainability through its student furniture design prototypes. Economy of materials is encouraged, as is innovation.

Two recent university programs challenged students to use wood resources creatively. The Waste Wood Utilization (WWU) and Rest Wood (RW) projects can teach the world that forests need not be exploited for the production of wooden furnishings with no future.

Waste wood utilization

Begun in 2006, the WWU project involves the university's wood processing technology and furniture design departments, with the aim to make better use of industrial wood waste. While the engineers and technologists explore new wood-composite materials, the design students formulate ideas for new construction and assembly methods. Working together, they develop inventive forms that have potential for new products.

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Boomerang. Made from multiple boomerang-shaped components, the chair folds to form a table/stool. (Nikola Petkovic - WWU)

Final-year student Uros Vitas described their work as "following the well-known principle of 'less is better' - making products more simply in order to reduce technology and waste." Students spent several industrious months on their sustainable designs, supervised by assistant professor Jelena Matic and project leader professor Dusan Skakic.

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Tripod (left). Triangulated thin spruce components give this its stool lightness and strength (Aleksander Blagojevic - WWU).

Paper Bench (right). Solid oak strips form this interactive magazine holder/sculpture (Nemanja Aleksic - WWU).

Students and faculty fund-raised to exhibit their furniture to the world in the "Talent Zone" at the prestigious Copenhagen International Furniture Fair, May 10-13, 2007.

Rest Wood

In this four-day workshop, held at the Center for Tools and Machinery, Faculty of Forestry, University of Belgrade in March 2007, students developed new products from the off-cuts of a parquet flooring manufacturer. Fifteen of the best students from three of the university's faculties worked on the project, which was conceived by assistant professor Jelena Matic and project manager Dr. Zdravko Popovic and sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection of Serbia.

It encouraged a cooperative and teamwork approach in the construction of prototypes for new wood products with the potential for export by Serbian companies. Students needed to consider the short time span, specified production facilities and available support from technical assistants for their design concepts. They mixed and matched the ten wood species at their disposal or used colourful stains in many of the prototypes. Challenged with how to best to use the small dimensions of off-cuts supplied, students had to solve adhesion, jointing and scale problems.

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Zig-Zag (left). Modular elements and sliding joints for disassembly form this stool/coffee table (Sasa Samardzic - RW).

Easy Bowl (right). Wooden squares attached with rubber bands shape this serving tray (Jovana Bogdanovic - RW).

The more successful designs were displayed during Belgrade Design Week, May 7-12, 2007, as part of the Student Design Scene exhibition at the retail showroom of KUBO.

Thanks to professor Jelena Matic and Uros Vitas (final-year student and "BREZA" student magazine journalist) for their assistance with this article. Vitas contributed the design below to the WWU project.

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Mies Rollo. Solid cherry components glued to a hemp fabric "band" allow this chair to be rolled away for storage (WWU).

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© furniturelink 2007 (text) images © Belgrade University and Jelena Zecevic