Eclectic history of plywood revealed in new V&A exhibition exploring material that made the modern world.
Featuring pieces by Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer and Charles and Ray Eames, alongside an incredible range of objects from planes to skateboards, this exhibition tells the story of how this often-overlooked material made the modern world.
Light, strong, affordable and versatile, plywood is the unlikely material behind an eclectic array of groundbreaking designs to be celebrated in a world-first exhibition at the V&A this summer. Opening this July, Plywood explores the near-ubiquitous material’s global impact and history from the 1850s to the present day.
The exhibition brings together significant new research with new acquisitions and objects that have never before been on public display. It will take visitors through plywood’s many reputational transformations; from a cheap product that was often hidden or maligned for its inferiority to solid timber, to the material prized by midcentury modernists and by today’s flourishing maker movement.
Image: Edie Stool, birch plywood, designed by David and Joni Steiner for Open Desk London 2013. Photograph: Rory Gardi
Coupling objects drawn from the V&A's world-class furniture, design and architecture collections with significant loans from across the globe, highlights include early experiments in plywood, such as a 1908 book printed during Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition to Antarctica and bound with plywood covers; celebrated pieces by modernist designers such as Grete Jalk, Robin Day and Charles and Ray Eames; and striking examples of transport design such as 1917 moulded canoe, a 1960s British racing car with plywood chassis, and some of the first ever surf and skate boards.
Plywood: Material of the Modern World
15 July – 12 November 2017