Why it’s important to use the right material: the example of wood

Specifically for Domus, designer Lorenzo Damiani explored 19 different ways of using wood.

Choosing to use a certain material, which is almost irreplaceable in order to achieve a specific result, thus taking advantage of its characteristics and enhancing them, becomes a great mental exercise that should never be taken for granted. I have always paid a lot of attention to the choice of the materials, which often brilliantly inspire forms and functions, to the point of thinking that the material I used was the only possible one. It was not always possible to achieve this, but it was important to always have it as an objective.

Wood – and its virtuous use – is the thin common thread linking all the following examples. I will try to create a list of uses that is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather the result of a transversal, almost “project-oriented” and entirely personal, ongoing research, aimed at inspiring all of us to find other uses that are not mentioned in the next lines.

Wood is defined as the solid substance forming the trunk, branches and roots of trees, and is probably one of the first materials used by humans in a world where most things were made of wood. The meaning and reasons behind its use, however, have changed over time and new environmental awareness, combined with geopolitical and technological developments, have become harsh judges. For example, in terms of material technology, nowadays it no longer makes sense to create, for example, wooden aircraft propellers, although in the past they used to be made of wood.

Without going into too much detail on the literature on wood, this organic, biodegradable, recyclable and regenerable material with many good mechanical properties is widely used (in some cases too much so) because of its workability and availability, thus allowing it to sometimes have a competitive price compared to other materials. Here is a list of uses that caught my attention.

I have purposely not mentioned examples of objects made from recycled wood or parts of other objects, because I imagined that each reader could contribute to the list by sharing their thoughts on this very topical theme. I don’t think we need to make a distinction between precious and non-precious woods, as it is more important to know whether this material is used correctly or not, always keeping in mind that “any material, if well worked, becomes precious”, as Pierluigi Ghianda used to say. Well, I would add that every wood becomes precious if used in the right way and in the right context.

These observations aim to arouse curiosity and attention in the readers about the world around us, as well as to awaken a (sometimes dormant) sensitivity about the use of materials, or to help them find common ground with their research and design work.

Whether the material used is wood, marble, metal, or plastic, it is important to have a critical and respectful attitude towards the different uses. Respect, in particular, should be the key to our actions.

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