FIND Design Fair Asia has rapidly established itself as the leading event in the design industry calendar for the region. One drawcard for the design community is DesignSingapore Council’s EMERGE showcase. For 2023, Suzy Annetta from Design Anthology returned as curator with the theme “CRAFT + INDUSTRY: MAN + MACHINE”. Jarrod Lim was invited by Annetta as one of 50 emerging and established designers from around the region to submit their work.
Lim says of the opportunity: “I was absolutely delighted to be invited to participate in the EMERGE showcase. I felt that my design philosophy truly aligned with the theme of Craft + Industry. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve always taken great inspiration from examining production and manufacturing processes and melding them with intuitive, human qualities to create my designs. The concepts and realisation of my designs have often been borne from the interaction between man and machine.”
Lim took the chance to explore the evolution of an iconic Southeast Asian design, the Peacock chair. Inspired by the shape, Lim considered how to evoke the same effect in timber. “With the peacock chair, the base and backrest are quite separate” he says “I followed the idea of a box and backrest but wanted to look at how to better integrate it. It is not that difficult in terms of construction, but it is difficult to make it look balanced”.
Having trialed various options, Lim settled on a slatted design. “Originally, I planned to create a solid chair without slats but it just didn’t look right. It looked extremely top-heavy and intersection of the backrest and the base, aesthetically, didn’t work. By adding the slats and working with the grain of the wood I was able to ensure the lines of the backrest progress down through the seat, right to the base. These small decisions were deliberately made to ensure the aesthetic works”.
Lim is no stranger to working with wood and particularly American species. An established working relationship with the team at Omega Mas in Surabaya, Indonesia meant that Lim had confidence that his design could be realised by craftsmen who understand the exacting standards of fine furniture manufacturing. Omega Mas also operate a kiln where they produce thermally modified timber. This gave Lim the idea of producing the chair for use outdoors and he selected thermally modified American red oak supplied by Omega Mas.
Thermally modified timber (TMT) is not a new concept. The ancient Vikings knew that when building defensive fencing for fortifications, poles made from timber with a burnt surface lasted longer than those that hadn’t. More recent experimental and development work has shown that the thermal modification process works extremely well with some North American hardwood species including red oak.
The TMT process is essentially a high intensity kiln schedule that lasts between 3 to 4 days. The temperature reaches between 180 and 215 degrees Celsius depending on the level of durability required. The process requires an inert atmosphere devoid of oxygen to prevent combustion, this is usually either steam or a vacuum. During the process, the chemical and physical properties of the timber undergo permanent change.
The two most beneficial effects of the TMT process are to dramatically improve the stability and also the durability of timber species. After the process, the moisture content is lowered to around 4 – 6% and the equilibrium moisture content is permanently reduced which means that thermally modified timber is less affected by atmospheric changes in humidity, reducing the ability of the timber to absorb moisture, and so greatly improving its stability. The durability is improved by removing the hemicelluloses and carbohydrates from the wood which are the main food sources for wood-destroying fungi.
The result on this occasion is the ‘Sun Lounge’. Both striking and sophisticated in design, it is built to endure the sun, heat and moisture of a Southeast Asian climate. Created to bring modern luxury to an outdoor setting, “To me it looks like a sun rising” says Lim.