Let’s take a second and talk about plywood. Simple, old, humble, plywood.
Plywood is a workhorse material common on job sites. It’s made of a numerous thin sheets of veneer held together by resin. Plywood panels are used in construction because they’re cheap and because plywood has some benefits too, like it doesn’t split when nailed and it doesn’t shrink as much as other woods. Also it’s available in big sizes.
Plywood grain is typically not exciting and lacks character. But, plywood is capable of amazing things. With a little steam, a strong form and some patience, one can make it do almost anything.
Molded plywood was commonly used in airplane construction, and of course, furniture design.
Probably the most well known pieces of molded plywood furniture (aside from the lounge chair pictured at top) is the classic 1940s Eames molded plywood chair. Some 70 years after its birth, and it’s still one of the ultimate symbols of modernism. And it’s damn comfortable too.
Another great early adopter of the molded plywood method was Carl-Axel Acking, the Swedish architect and furniture designer. Look at this chair.
Still modern. Still stunning.
For these early designers, plywood represented the modern marriage of technology and nature. It allowed designers to create shapes that were previously unobtainable with wood.
Lange Production’s GJ Chair, which looks more like it's made of ribbon than wood, is another example of just pushing process and materials to the absolute extreme with mind-blowing results.
Also see his cantilevered Rocking Chair which seems to defy gravity.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about the alchemy of molded plywood furniture. It’s the process of turning the mundane into the exotic. And that’s a feat that will always impress no matter the decade.