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Designer Spotlight: Danko Design Initiative

The Danko Design Initiative [www.peterdanko.com] sets a pretty ambitious mission for itself: “to transform the public’s concept of what furniture can be, by demonstrating a deeper understanding of beauty, using environmentally friendly materials, all within an affordable envelope.” No small task, for sure, but Danko manages to deliver on all of these goals with flying colors.

An intelligent combination of materials, manufacturing techniques and design savvy come together to make Danko’s triple threat — aesthetics, environment, affordability — not just possible, but truly unique and beautiful. The majority of the wood they use is sourced from FSC-certified forests (more about the FSC here [www.sundance.tv]), and its finished with non-toxic, water-based adhesives and lacquers. When it comes to seat suspension and padding, it’s all recycled; the Gotham Lounge, above on the bottom left, uses nylon webbing recycled from seat belts. Also pictured are the Bodyform chair, which are designed to be stacked up to 12 chairs high and has been selected by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for their Permanent Design Collection, and above the chairs is the Lollipop bench.

The real magic of Danko’s designs are the manufacturing techniques, which, when combined with his modern design sensibility, makes for some remarkably efficient materials use and furniture, consequently. Most of the designs are made from the “bent-ply” technique, where sheets of plywood are first “rolled” or “sliced” from logs; rather than cutting square blocks from a round tree, the process is very similar to the way paper towels coming off a roll. Once the sheets are off, they are pressure bent, rather than cut, to shape specifications. The two processes result in materials use that is between eight and ten times more efficient than more traditional furniture-making techniques; Danko claims that with the wood from one tree, he can create as much furniture as a more traditional designer using ten trees. Everything starts as a sheet of plywood and is bent to his liking, and in many pieces, it’s easy to see how little wood is actually used if you were to take the Spyder table (above, bottom left) and stretch out its three legs; the result would be just a fraction of a sheet of plywood. The simplicity of the designs belies the skill required in designing such modern, sophisticated (yet unpretentious) furniture, and TreeHugger really likes Danko’s style. Anytime you can combine modern aesthetics with materials efficiency and environmental ethics, it’s a good thing, and Danko is one of the best. Learn more about his work, including a few of the reasons he was selected as of the Best of TreeHugger: Designers [www.treehugger.com] at his website [www.peterdanko.com].