Architecture Faculty’s Steam-Bent Wood Exhibit in Grand Rapids a Top 100 Finalist in ArtPrize

“Spring-Back,” entered by ;Assistant Professor of Architecture, Steven Mankouche and Lecturers Joshua Bard and Matthew Schulte, was announced as a top 100 exhibit out of 1,713 entries in the 2010 ArtPrize. More than 1,700 entries were ArtPrize is an international art competition and exhibition featuring over a thousand artists in hundreds of venues around downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 22 – October 10, 2010.

Spring-Back is a gateway inspired by the bentwood classic café chair designed by Michael Thonet. In the mid-nineteenth century Great Lakes craftsmen utilized abundant regional lumber to construct steam bentwood furniture. Spring-Back revisits this virtually forgotten craft through digital technology foregrounding it as an environmentally responsible way of constructing space. The process of steam bending subjects a piece of air-dried lumber to steam moisture softening its fibers and enabling it to be bent in multiple directions through the use of a jig. Made entirely out of regionally harvested white oak Spring-Back formally references its organic roots appearing to grow straight out of the ground it stands on. Even its dark ebonized color is a staining process that occurs naturally when tannic acid in white oak reacts with iron present in water. Formed by water, made from wood our work is inspired by the ecology and heritage of our region.

The research that led to the creation of Spring-Back started in 2009 as a product of a University of Michigan Taubman College Research Through Making Grant with Steven Mankouche, Joshua Bard and Tsz Yan Ng as principal investigators.

The exhibit is on display at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park – Exhibition Center in Grand Rapids until Oct. 10. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park serves more than a half-million visitors annually.

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