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design biennial boston by andrea kaufman

Across the street from the bustling Boston Fire Department, a wood sculpture is nestled in a small, half-moon shaped grassy area on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. It’s called Ways of Wood and is one of the featured designs chosen for 2017 Design Biennial Boston.

Ways of Wood by MARGEN-LAB. It is located on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in the Financial District of Boston, MA.
Ways of Wood sits across the street from Boston Fire Department on Purchase Street. Firefighters helped the project team assemble the piece back in August.

Since 2008, Design Biennial Boston aims to showcase emerging local designers and to show the talent here in Boston. A jury awards funding for small-scale installations for a specific location. One of this year’s sponsors is the Boston Society of Architects, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

A sign explaining the exhibit, Ways of Wood, and a map of the 2017 exhibitions.

As part of Boston HUBweek, a group of four led a short tour of this year’s designs: AIA curator, Mark Pasnik; project designer, Daniel Ibañez; project team member, James Negri; and the Greenway’s first public art curator, Lewis Cowen. HUBweek is a weeklong festival that merges art, science and technology.

From left: Lewis Cowen, Daniel Ibañez, James Negri, a fellow tour member; and Mark Pasnik. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, they lead a tour about Biennial Boston's work this year, including Ways of Wood.

While most of the biennial designs will be disassembled this week, Ways of Wood is not. It'll be up through next spring. It’s inspired by images of logs floating from forests to sawmills in early America. The piece shows the transformation of raw wood into a contemporary piece. It’s a connection between old and new, between historical material sourcing and the computer numerical control software that shaped the pieces.

A close up of Ways of Wood. The piece is intended to show the transformation from a raw material to a manufactured form.

“We used hand tools and a drill press to cut holes and used a chop saw to cut wood,” explained Negri. “We used this very powerful machinery that uses this software to make these cuts. We also used very rudimentary tools that are very basic.”

110 sheets of plywood were used to create Ways of Wood. Computer software was used to make the cuts but the entire piece was assembled by hand.

From design to creation to assembly, the whole process took about six weeks. All the wood is indigenous to New England: eastern white pine, ash, birch, and red oak. They found someone in Massachusetts to sell them the logs, which are from unwanted trees that were taken down and given a second life.

“For them, it was such a weird story,” said Ibañez of the Ayer man. “Like a Spaniard that doesn’t speak that well all of the sudden in Massachusetts, asking for logs...it was all very weird.”

Ibañez discussed the tufted pattern carved into the wood on his piece, Ways of Wood. This pattern is commonly seen on French furniture and is supposed to encourage people to sit.

Their finished product created a public space for sitting, socializing, and contemplation.

Negri, Pasnik, and Ibañez sit on Ways of Wood. They were able to fit 50 people on it at once without any damage.

When Ways of Wood is eventually taken down Ibañez and Negri are unsure of what will happen to it. Maybe someone will buy it. Maybe a sculpture museum would take it. Whatever it is, they want it to have a second life too.

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andrea kaufman
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All photos by Andrea Kaufman. #jo304

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