On display from the 15th July, the Victoria and Albert Museum will examine the extraordinary history of plywood. 

Patkau_Architects_Ice_skating_shelters_Winnipeg_2012__Patkau_Architects
Patkau Architects, Ice Skating Shelters, Winnipeg, 2012. (c)Patkau Architects. 

The V&A’s upcoming free exhibition will focus on the light, affordable and versatile material plywood, showcasing how the unlikely  material has been behind a number of extraordinary designs.

By bringing together more than 120 objects, the display will explain how the often over-looked material has helped to create the modern world in which we live in today.

The mass production of plywood during the 19th century saw the materials adaptability and usefulness fully explored and exploited, being used to construct objects such as a tube to house an experimental elevated railway in 1867 New York to hatboxes, tea chests, surfboards and skateboards.

Plywood: Material of  the  Modern World will explore how it has been used by designers and architects to find even more inventive uses and designs for it.

Taking visitors through the material’s history from the 1850s to the present day, the display will bring together research along with new acquisitions and objects that have never before been on public display.

Highlights will include a 1908 book printed during Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition to Antarctica and bound with plywood covers; celebrated pieces by modernist designers such as Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, Grete Jalk, Robin Day and Charles and Ray Eames; and striking examples of transport design such as 1917 moulded canoe.

Christopher Wilk, exhibition co-curator and Keeper of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the V&A, said: “Plywood is such a common, everyday material that most people barely notice when it is used. One could say that it has been hidden in plain sight. Since Victorian times, it has been one of the most popular and versatile materials used in manufacturing, and by designers and architects. Today it is more popular than ever.”

Plywood: Material of the Modern World will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum from the 15th July until the 12th November. For more information visit: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/plywood-material-of-the-modern-world

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