VAIA cube makes sweet music out of trees lost to storm

Innovative natural amplifier gives new life to the 42 million trees that fell during the Vaia storm in Italy in 2018. The VAIA Cube is made out of wood recovered from the fallen trees -- for each Cube purchased, one new tree is planted in the Dolomites.

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VAIA cube wood music amplifier
Photo: VAIA Wood.

VAIA, a new project named after a shocking storm that hit the Italian Dolomites in October 2018, has created beautiful, passive music amplifiers constructed from precious wood recovered from the trees uprooted during the storm. The project was conceived by 3 young entrepreneurs — Federico Stefani, Paolo Milan and Giuseppe Addamo — who have been honored for the efforts to create VAIA with a prestigious Forbes Italy ranking “100 young leaders of the future” in social enterprise in 2020. The project takes its name and inspiration from Vaia, the formidable storm that affected the region of Triveneto between 26th and 30th October 2018, causing the greatest Italian forest catastrophe of the last 50 years. Bad weather hit 494 municipalities, bringing about substantial damage and the complete destruction of 42,525 hectares of forest (3% of the local woodland area), and leaving about 8.5 million m3 of timber on the ground. 

“We wanted to find a concrete alternative for all these fallen trees, that could not be employed for large structures,” recounts Federico Stefani, Vaia co-founder, “hence the idea of using that timber, now deemed as unusable, to create an object of design that could send a strong message while supporting the recovery of the territory”

The VAIA Cube allows you to propagate any sound in a completely natural way by inserting your smartphone into the structure and allowing its acoustic design to amplify your phone’s sound. “For us it is a strong and concrete metaphor, a cube through which we can further amplify Nature’s cry for help and keep drawing attention on climate change while creating a sustainable project,” continues Federico Stefani. The amplifier is made by local craftsmen and carpenters, and the startup team is involving stakeholders who deal with public forests in the Dolomites to arrange for the planting of new trees. In fact, the territory today has significant hydrogeological instabilities and is at risk of landslides due to post-storm deforestation.

The startup stands as a spokesman for a further tangible message: with the purchase of a VAIA Cube you contribute to planting a new tree and thus reviving the forest. To mark the 2nd anniversary of the catastrophe, VAIA organised its 5th planting event on 25 October, during which 726 trees were planted: one tree for each day since the Vaia storm.  

The VAIA Cube is made with certified timber that fell during the storm. One of the types of wood used for the Cube is the Val di Fassa spruce, a valuable type of spruce that has always been used to build violins, thanks to its particular structure suitable for sound amplification. Such a feature is a further symbol of how the VAIA Cube can spread a strong message and have a wide, sustainable reach through design.

Photo: VAIA Wood.

The wood used is solid, with each item presenting a unique crack, made by a carpenter with an ax following the wood’s natural veins –- a choice that aims at bringing a tangible sign of the wounded forest into every house. This results in each piece being unique: no one is alike.

Part of the revenues go to the local community and its craftsmen. The founders explain: “we are fighting to make the project as economically sustainable and to return as much as possible to nature”. The idea of VAIA’s team is to apply such a circular model to any environmental issue -– to any waste or emergency brought about by climate change. The goal is to intervene by manufacturing objects of design that do not further compromise the ecosystem and that also function to redevelop the affected territories.

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