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Design students give trees new life – Bath Spa University

Bath Spa design students give felled trees a new life

Friday, 1 December, 2023

Visitors to Bath Spa’s Newton Park campus will no doubt notice the abundance of trees. Unfortunately some of them succumb to disease and have to be felled, but often the timber can be milled and reused. This year, Bath Spa students are giving these trees a new life. 

Students on Bath Spa’s Product and Furniture Design course are using timber from felled trees at Newton Park to construct chairs as part of their coursework. The trees were milled on-site at Newton Park using a portable sawmill and transported to Bath Spa’s Locksbrook Campus.  

Talking about the project brief, Senior Lecturer in Product and Furniture Design Dan Mifsud said:  

“The students are using different types of wood per group to explore and compare the properties of different timbers. They need to make observations and notes of the properties of the wood they’re using (is it light, heavy, tight grain, knotty etc). The design of the chair was chosen for its efficient use of materials and simple construction.” 

Students will also be able to use the wood for other projects throughout the year, so the trees will have a chance to live on, reincarnated into furniture and other pieces. First year Product and Furniture Design student Charlie Hawker is currently making a lounge chair from sycamore, and said he liked working with the wood because it was sustainable.  

“I believe that trees are the most sustainable form of material, as they will never run out! You can always plant more, but you can’t do that with metals or plastics,” he said. 

Newton Park’s trees have been re-used in other ways. For example, picnic tables dotted around campus are made of timber from an old oak tree that fell into the lake a few years ago. But this is the first time the University has repurposed its wood for students to use. 

Penny Snowden, Grounds Manager at Bath Spa, said: 

“This is the first year we’ve given the wood to the students, but it makes a lot of sense – plus it supports Bath Spa’s sustainable ethos. We have to get rid of the wood anyway, so why not give it to our students?” 

Erin Deighton, Course Leader for Product and Furniture Design, said: 

“Our course is centred around students learning about materials and processes, understanding different material properties and values so they make informed decisions about the materials they choose in their designs. Students are also encouraged to consider the circular economy and lifecycle of their products. 

The history of Newton Park is fascinating and using the timber from the felled trees gives students a great opportunity to see the entire process from milling to seasoning to prepping to finished pieces of furniture. It's a valuable experience that truly puts theory into practice and keeps the story of the Newton Park trees alive.” 

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