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Wood Is Good

A Celebration of the Material’s Natural Beauty, Durability & Sustainability

The Generation 50 line of benches and litter receptacles celebrates the company’s legacy, from a design that takes cues from Landscape Forms’ first products to its designer, Robert Chipman, nephew of the company’s founder John Chipman.

Its grain—undulating and swirling. Its hues—warm and reassuring. Its aroma—nostalgic and earthy. Its texture—firm, smooth, confidence-inspiring, yet somehow also soft and welcoming. Wood captures the beauty of Mother Nature like few other materials can, a remarkable and renewable resource that only She herself could create.

"Wood evokes the history of fine furniture, and what Landscape Forms has always done is create fine furniture for the outdoors,” says Robert Chipman, ASLA, Founder and Principal of Robert Chipman Landscape Architect, and award-winning furniture designer for Landscape Forms. 

"Wood is intuitively inviting—it’s comfortable whether it’s a 100-degree day in Arizona or -5 degrees up in Michigan. And now more than ever with new manufacturing technology, we’re able to take this inviting material and create forms that are truly amazing."

Robert Chipman, ASLA, Founder and Principal of Robert Chipman Landscape Architect, and award-winning furniture designer for Landscape Forms.
Landscape Forms designs and manufactures durable wood products that naturally weather, requiring minimal maintenance and offering a more sustainable solution than other materials.
Domestically Sourced Thermally Modified Ash (DSTMA) is one of the hardwoods Landscape Forms offers. DSTMA is moderately hard, and highly resistant to decay.

Pushing the creative boundaries of wood are the artisans at the Landscape Forms Midlink Facility, a site that in its former life was known as the historic General Motors Fisher Body Plant. Today, Midlink is home to a world-class wood manufacturing facility, giving rise to some of the most sought-after, high-quality and architecturally-significant wood site furnishings in the country. And to say that people around here are passionate about the material could only be an understatement.

“From a design standpoint, wood is one of the most warm, beautiful and welcoming materials we can choose to put in our products,” describes Landscape Forms Manager of Product Engineering, James Bucholtz. “It gives us a flexibility to create unique shapes that are sculptural, inviting, and that people just want to migrate toward.”

But for Bucholtz, wood’s exceptional natural beauty is just one aspect that makes it such a compelling material for high-profile outdoor site furnishings. “From a component standpoint, the woods we utilize are remarkably durable, get even more beautiful with weathering, require little maintenance, and can be more sustainable than most modern materials. In fact, it takes less energy to process a pound of wood than it does to recycle a pound of plastic. And wood has the added benefit of composting naturally at the end of a long life,” he says.

Landscape Forms woodshop facility is currently housed at the Midlink Facility in Kalamazoo, MI, previously the site of the General Motors Fisher Body Plant.
Unfinished wood will weather to a natural gray patina.

For the majority of its public outdoor wood products, Landscape Forms utilizes Ipe, Jarrah or Domestically Sourced Thermally Modified Ash, three incredibly sturdy hardwoods that are dimensionally stable, resistant to insects and rot, resistant to scratching and marring, and don't require a protective finish. “Because the wood we use is so hard and so dense, it requires machine-grade tooling and quite a bit of effort to work with, but the outcomes are just such beautiful, crisp and durable forms,” describes Bucholtz. “With our expert manufacturing and engineering team we’re able to hone our process to not only ensure the highest quality of fit and finish, but also to ensure we’re doing the most we can to minimize scrap and utilize as much of the raw material as possible.”

The focus on the sustainable use of wood in manufacturing begins long before timber enters the Midlink facility. From sapling to the point of harvest, trees remove carbon from the atmosphere by sequestering it in new growth and by storing it in their accumulated woody vegetation. Of course, maximizing this valuable ecological service and the others that trees provide relies on bolstering the health and vitality of forests in an ecologically holistic way. This requires diligent work to ensure all wood used in production is harvested from sustainably managed forests—a process that involves careful tree selection, reforestation, and the protection of old-growth forests to ensure that wood can remain a truly renewable resource. “For example with our Jarrah, a Western Australia hardwood, it’s harvested rotationally, only in patches of regrowth forest with 25 to 40 years between harvests, and with no more that 1% of overall forest area harvested each year. And that’s all the Jarrah we use in our products,” says Bucholtz. "It’s important to harvest so little because the reality of forestry is that it just takes time, and a lot of it, to replenish a forest.”

For Ipe, along with the rest of the species it utilizes, Landscape Forms works with the FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) (FSC-C008569) to ensure that all wood products meet the highest environmental and socioeconomic standards for responsible forestry. This comes in the form of FSC® chain-of-custody certification and annual auditing by non-profit firm Preferred by Nature to verify that all forest-based materials used during production meet strict chain of custody requirements from sourcing to distribution. “As a certification body approved by FSC, we come in annually and audit Landscape Forms' procedures to verify that they match what the standard requires,” says Preferred by Nature Supply Chains Coordinator, Makayla Andersen. "FSC certifies forest areas, ensuring there’s a management plan in place that prevents over harvesting, prevents the use of GMOs, pesticides or herbicides, and protects the overall integrity of a forest habitat to ensure it can be sustainably used as a resource for many generations,” she describes.

But FSC® certification is not just about ensuring today’s forest materials are sourced sustainably—it’s also about furthering the conversation about sustainable forestry, helping garner support for the vital cause, and helping to continuously push industries in a more responsible direction. Andersen agrees, saying, "For the average users of a space, seeing a seal that says 'FSC Certified’ is a great way to get everyday people engaged in the conversation about sustainability and what that entails. And for architects and designers who are seeking wood for its beauty and the way it can enhance a space, seeing an FSC seal gives them the confidence that their use of the material is not taking advantage of people or ecosystems. Ultimately, FSC is about realistically recognizing businesses’ and communities’ need for materials, and addressing that need in the most responsible manner possible.”

Learn more about all of our finishes and materials.