The Preservation Bench, designed by Houtlander.
The Preservation Bench, designed by Houtlander.

The Preservation Bench defies gravity at Downtown Design Dubai 2019

Houtlander collaborates with AHEC to create a second version of a sensational, gravity-defying play on their contemporary folk style

The Preservation Bench, a collaborative installation in American white oak between Houtlander and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry, stole the show at Downtown Design Dubai, which ran from November 12 - 15, 2019. The piece, first presented at 100% Design South Africa earlier this year, has been recreated in American white oak for the fair. Houtlander also showcased part of their new range of outdoor tables and chairs in thermally-modified American red oak at Downtown Editions, Downtown Design’s dedicated showcase of bespoke and limited-edition design by established and emerging designers, collectives and individual studios from around the world.

Houtlander is currently producing a commercial outdoor range, which was launched in Johannesburg at 100% Design South Africa 2019, but the real showstopper was a tribute to the wood from which the furniture is made -- the Preservation Bench. Maintaining their winning streak, the 100% Design South Africa award for Best Furniture Design was, once again, given to Houtlander. The Preservation Bench in thermally-modified American red oak is now part of the permanent collection of the Javett Art Center at the University of Pretoria.

“We are a company that strives to be as sustainable as possible - we don’t use screws or mechanical fixings in our production - just good traditional joinery,” explains Phillip Hollander, who co-founded Houtlander along with Stephen Wilson. “We not only want to design furniture that is useful and lasting, we only work with timber that is honorably sourced. We love the story of how American hardwood is grown; how it is harvested; how the forest re-generates itself -- it is a beautiful thing.”

Known for its modern take on spindle furniture, the two designers re-worked their signature style to celebrate the sapling growing from the forest floor, seeking the light and growing up towards the canopy. Three grounded benches in American white oak curve into one gravity-defying twisted form that seemingly disappears into the air. In order to bring their work to the UAE, Wilson and Hollander created a second version of the Preservation Bench in American white oak. The decision to change the material was taken, since the new piece is not intended to remain outdoors.

“We were contemplating the launch of our outdoor range and wanting to show a piece that was in some way representative of a tree as we wanted to give a sense of the furniture we were showing being outdoors. At the same time, we really wanted to communicate something that is often overlooked about the material we use to manufacture our products -- namely American Hardwoods -- and that is that timber is in fact carbon that has been captured out the atmosphere and locked into a functional item for a very long time,” adds Wilson.

According to Houtlander, no other material that furniture is made out of can claim to be carbon negative -- a property which is becoming increasingly important for the wellbeing of our planet. The bench, therefore, is a visual representation of the furniture ‘coming out of the air’ and meant to suggest the form and function of a park tree with a bench offering some shade. The Preservation Bench is an expression of the fact that the material being used comes out of the air -- it is carbon which has been absorbed out of the air by the living forest and converted into timber.

“Not only is the Preservation Bench a masterpiece in timber design and craftsmanship, it also has a minimal environmental footprint, which speaks to the inspiration behind it. We have calculated that all the white oak used to make the second bench would be replaced through natural regeneration in the U.S. hardwood forest in less than 1 second. Additionally, while in use, it is estimated that the Preservation Bench will keep 733 kg of CO2 equivalent out of the atmosphere,” concluded Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director.

About Houtlander
Phillip Hollander and Stephen Wilson are two passionate designers, who have come together to make beautiful, useful furniture. They care about basic human principles of inclusivity, environment and legacy and connected with a single aim to design accessible and covetable furniture. The duo admires modernist design, especially
the Scandinavian aesthetic, respect the tried and tested methods of centuries of traditional joinery and challenge ourselves to employ modern methods to create functional pieces with a future heritage.

Minimalist in design and environmental impact, the two designers create furniture that is tooled with remarkable accuracy without using a single nail or screw. They only use high quality sustainably harvested hardwood -- primarily oak simply because it is so well-loved. Their furniture is light in style and weight but strong and hardwearing, simply designed for everyday life.

For more information, please visit: and follow them @houtlander.

About AHEC
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is the leading international trade association for the US hardwood industry, representing the committed exporters among US hardwood companies and all the major US hardwood production trade associations. AHEC runs a worldwide programme to promote American hardwoods in over 50 export markets, concentrating on providing architects, specifiers, designers and end-users with technical information on the range of species, products and sources of supply. In addition, AHEC also produces a full range of technical publications.
For more information, please visit: and follow them @americanhardwood_imea.



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