The American Hardwood Export Council’s, Adam Markowitz and Marcus Piper have collaborated on ‘Oak REDefined’ – an installation exploring American red oak from multiple perspectives at the recently concluded Denfair 2019. AHEC returned for its fourth consecutive year at Denfair with a deep exploration of the physical and emotional properties of timber – a material favoured by Australian designers. American red oak was selected for the collaboration with designer and architect, Adam Markowitz and top graphic artist, Marcus Piper, to create a space in which to relax, recharge and reconnect with a thoughtfully designed environment. Testament to the quality of the design and build of the installation, the stand won the ‘Best Large Stand’ award at the 2019 Denfair Awards.

‘Oak REDefined’ was conceived having carefully considered research pointing to the beneficial effects on wellbeing of natural materials in our work environments. The space provided a respite from the visual vigor of Denfair in which visitors could relax, recharge their phones, laptops and brains. The installation was manufactured to a very high standard by Sydney-based, Evostyle, who used both natural and thermally-modified red oak. It incorporated a number of different ‘moments’, from a hot desk to a dedicated relaxation zone to a playable puzzle designed by Marcus Piper in the form of a tangram table. It demonstrated how functionality can be fun, and how beauty and practicality can balance for an energizing and productive result.

“It’s an interesting species for me to focus on because I think, for Australian architects, most are not even aware of the different species of American oak,” says Markowitz. “I think it’s important, given the quantities of American oak specified by Australian architects and designers that they understand more about what they are choosing and why. There is a difference between American white and red oak and for me red oak is a very interesting species because of its porous stain absorbing attributes that are very different to that of white oak. In most cases the two species are very difficult to tell apart by observation alone and so for many applications there is no reason not to specify red oak as frequently as white oak. It’s also the more abundant of the two species.”

According to Markowitz, he wanted to create a case study design exploring how timber could be used in various ways within the workplace environment. Designed to consider the details essential to comfort such as subtle curvature on hot desk edges to reduce strain when typing to slimline cable management solutions obscuring the necessary but visually unappealing technology, Markowitz has demonstrated that with timber, functionality and beauty are seamless. Visitors are warmly welcomed to come and relax and recharge. With discreet and comfortable seats with woven cord seating by Modasest, and charging stations, the Oak REDefined stand provided a space where something or nothing can be done.

“We were excited to work with Adam not only because we respect him as a designer but because we were enthusiastic about the stand this year taking on an architectural feel. We liked the way we could work hand in hand with him and the design could evolve based on both design intent and manufacturing possibilities. We all agreed the design needed to feel inclusive and approachable, so that people were drawn to the stand and felt comfortable and welcome to stay and either do their own thing or learn about red oak. The mutual respect between designer and maker is evident in the final product,” said Luke Ommundson, Owner of Evostyle.

Every element of the installation was created from American red oak. Lesser understood in Australia than American white oak, the species shares many of the same qualities, though red oak is more abundant in the U.S. forest.