The Design of the Forestry Industry: "First, the Forests" at the CCA

By Mick Côté Oct. 11, 2012

First, the Forests

Dan Handel, Curator of First, the Forests. © CCA, Montréal.

Handpicked from 250 applicants who pitched projects to curate at Montreal's Canadian Centre for Architecture, Dan Handel strives to show a new side of the forest's place in contemporary design. "First, the Forests," the CCA's newest exhibit, takes a look at four facets of the forestry industry, examining its place in the world of architecture.

Handel said his interest in forestry grew after researching the northwest US, where the industry prospers and where complex processes are highly planned and established. "I became gradually convinced that not only form has something to do with forests, but forestry can be understood as a form of design that creates artificial environments with very high precision," said Handel.

The project is laid out in four small instalments that complement each other and display the industry's progression. The display room is composed of four panel-like wooden structures that each focus on different aspects of the business.

More contemporary design projects are exposed behind the panels, allowing viewers to make the connection between early developments in forestry and the impact they had on more recent work.

Handel, who is also the winner of the CCA's Young Curator Award, put aside the current issues of sustainability and deforestation in favour of a new angle on forestry as a developing art, a form of carefully crafted space design.

He admits the exhibit had to be finely revised to fit the space available in the CCA's Octagonal Gallery. "We basically narrowed down from five thousand ideas that are relevant to the thing," said Handel. "We wanted to display a very short and concise statement, which I think is good. I think if it had been a larger space, the strategy would have had to be different."

Handel's attention to details makes way for an exhibit that could have easily been lacklustre and deprived of dynamic content. He, however, manages to pull in the crucial aspects of forestry's effect on design without underwhelming his audience or overwhelming the gallery's walls.

"First, the Forests" will be displayed at the CCA until Jan. 6, 2013.

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