Standardization created efficiency in production along with affordability throughout the 20th century. For furniture, ready-to-assemble was the century’s most important contribution. Despite these positive aspects of standardization, it has its flaws. We can’t standardize the length of time a person should take in the shower as some people have a lot hair and others have none. Because we are all different, standardization suits some of us better than it suits others. The philosopher Alain De Botton believes design should be prescribed like medication and should help us with our specific needs. The workaholic who longs for life outside the city doesn’t want the same living room as the philomath who has an endless thirst for learning or the second-generation immigrant who wants to celebrate their roots.
Differentiation is easy for machines of the 21st century. Your home printer can customize the text on every page to say whatever you want to say. The time taken for the printer to print the same page of text one hundred times is no different from the time taken to print one hundred different pages. Changing ink for wood, other computer controlled digital machines such as the CNC wood router can produce the parts for one hundred identical chairs in the same amount of time as making one hundred different chairs. That’s what I want to do here with Birch Sandwich. If one-design-fits-all will never be truly appreciated by everyone, then how about one hundred different designs. The digital era of design is different.
My first project took place on Kickstarter. I wanted to create a furniture project that was as unique as I thought a 21st century furniture design should be. This Stool Rocks was a rocking stool featuring three different options: Easy Rock, Soft Rock, and Hard Rock that had different curavatures on their underside resulting in different levels of stability. The project was successful with 500+ backers.
Behind the Name
The name Birch Sandwich is a reference to the material that I love to work with and use most often, birch plywood. Plywood is an extremely efficient method of manufacturing trees into a workable design material that results in little waste. A log is unrolled like a pencil in a pencil sharpener producing long flat sheets called plys. An individual ply is strong in one direction and weak in the other. Therefore plys are sandwiched together in alternating directions resulting in strength in both directions that is stronger than solid wood of the same species. The name is partly inspired by Tom Sachs’ video “A Love Letter to Plywood,” where he describes plywood as:
Birch Sandwich is operated by me, James. I am a lifelong learner who has completed many university courses on an extremely wide range of topics. I followed my love of advanced geometry, technology, and sustainability by joining the skyscraper design office Kohn Pederson Fox in their London office. I later spent some time in Copenhagen with Julien De Smedt Architects and in Rotterdam with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. More recently, I enjoy working for myself designing and making products using digital fabrication tools.