MAXIMIZE TO MINIMIZE
In the future, everything will be recycled and reused. Our annual trend watch is devoted to those heroes who are making circular economies the new normal
Trends Report 2018: Our annual trend watch is devoted to those heroes who are making circular economies the new norm
TURNING TEXTILE DUST INTO USABLE AND DURABLE MATERIALS FOR WALLS AND FURNITURE
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but for the Danish company Really – makers of a new type of panel board composed of end-oflife textiles – invention was the result of overabundance. According to Really co-founder and long-time sustainability advocate Wickie Meier Engström, only 25 per cent of recyclable fabrics ever see a second life, and there is zero market for used industrial laundry – think hospital bed sheets and hotel towels. “We thought there must another option,” says Meier Engström.
The initial plan Meier Engström shared with co-founders Klaus Samsøe and Ole Smedegaard was to make furniture out of reconstituted offcuts. That was followed by the idea of a composite that could also work as acoustic panelling. The trick was to find a way to break down cotton textiles – which are typically harder to recycle than metal or plastic – without creating a whole new manufacturing process. After extensive testing, the team landed on airlaid manufacturing (commonly used in making napkins or diapers), in which layers of fibre are formed into a non-woven, homogenous pad. For the Really panels, a blanket of airlaid post-consumer cotton is sandwiched between two sheets of coloured cotton, mixed with plastic binder, and then compressed into dense, 7.8-millimetre-thick boards. These outer layers give the planks one of four colourways. Reprocessed wool roll-ends, for example, give the surface an ivory hue, while denim imparts a familiar blue.
The resulting boards are as durable as planks and comparable to teak in weight and density, but offer two distinct advantages over wood: Because there is no grain, the planks are more uniform, and they don’t splinter. Even the surface feels soft and tactile, like washi paper.
Early in the development process, the founders sought out Danish textile manufacturer Kvadrat as a logical partner for supplying pre-consumer textile waste. Kvadrat now owns a majority stake in the company and has been crucial in signalling that, although the product is upcycled, it doesn’t compromise on quality. During Milan Design Week this spring, Kvadrat showed off Really’s potential by commissioning Max Lamb to explore the material. The London designer responded with a custom collection of 12 benches featuring, variously, sharply mitred edges, grids of half-lap joints, or routered grooves for gently curved surfaces. “It’s an intriguing material,” Lamb says. “At first, you don’t quite know what it’s made of, but once you know it’s textile, it makes sense. There’s a warmth that comes from those origins.” And at the end of its life, notes Meier Engström, “we can mill it all over again.” Really is now available in Europe and parts of Asia. reallycph.dk
THE R16 TASK LAMP, MADE FROM ITS OWN PAPER PACKAGING
A 1.2-metre cardboard tube arrives in the mail. You pop the cork, pull out and unravel the electrical cord and two suspension cables, pin the internal LED bulb in place, switch it on, and voila: What was once a package is now a product.
Called R16, this all-in-one fixture is a reminder of one of Mcluhan’s most popular maxims – the medium is the message. Designed by Waarmakers of Amsterdam, it is the studio’s latest environmentally conscious product that reduces waste by a novel method. A few years ago, the studio caught media attention for Goedzak, a half-yellow, halfclear, bio-based polypropylene bag that can be used for items that are too good to be simply thrown away. When left curbside, the Goedzak’s bright yellow presence signals to passersby that there might be something in there worth taking home.
“The Dutch word ‘waar’ means ‘truth,’ and it’s the singular term for ‘stuff’,” says studio co-founder Maarten Heijltjes. “We loved the double meaning; it was also a way for us to put some pressure on ourselves: With a brand name like that you get called out if you’re not delivering on the promise.” Heijltjes and partner Simon Akkaya, who met at
Delft University of Technology, bonded over a shared dislike of school assignments. “We both had difficulty finding inspiration designing products that we did not believe the world needed.” After Goedzak, they came up with Be.e, a frameless e-scooter built primarily out of natural fibres including hemp. “We try to suggest alternative views on matters that are important to us – sustainability, social responsibility, the meaning of material possessions – and to express those values in our designs,” says Heijltjes. R16, which is now being sold online for €200, addresses the excesses of packaging. The studio’s next mission is to figure out how to make rail travel more attractive by offering travellers a more positive experience. The solution will be unveiled this month, during Dutch Design Week. T.H. waarmaker.nl
A LIBRARY IN INDONESIA TURNS ICE-CREAM BUCKETS INTO CLADDING
For all its dynamism, the neighbourhood of Taman Bima in Bandung, Indonesia, struggles with illiteracy and a lack of reading facilities. In an effort to bring reading to the area, the government asked Dutch firm SHAU, which has a local office, to build a 160-square-metre microlibrary that would be visually striking enough to lure people in, and that could be realized on a micro-budget. To provide both shade and crossventilation, SHAU conceived a latticed facade and, after scouring the neighbourhood, came up with an ideal, if unlikely, material: used ice-cream buckets. Roughly 2,000 of them, tilted to keep rainwater out, cover the box-like library, which perches on stilts. Whole tubs are arrayed with ones that have had their bottoms cut, spelling out a message from the mayor in binary code: “Books are the windows to the world.” shau.nl
USING 3-D KNITTING TECHNOLOGY, BENJAMIN HUBERT MAKES A CHAIR THAT’S LIGHT AS AIR
Less than a decade after Nike’s Flyknit trainers introduced 3-D knitting to the mainstream, the digital technology is now poised to transform the world of furniture. Chairs with 3-D-knit backs began appearing last year, but it took Layer’s Benjamin Hubert to deliver Tent, a chair prototype that boasts a unified, 3-D-knitted seat, back and sides. Rather than stitch the upholstery of these components together, Hubert worked with Moroso to weave 50,000 metres of recyclable nylon into a single, seamless piece with virtually no material wasted – even the padding is woven directly into the seat and back. The resulting garment slips like a sock over a flatpack steel frame, its sides tensioned by loops of high-performance sailing rope. layerdesign.com, moroso.it
LEFTOVER SPOOLS OF YARN BECOME CARPETS
To keep waste to a minimum, Swedish rug maker Kasthall manufactures all its yarns to order – but even this process results in leftovers. “We make a few extra spools in case we need to redo something during the production process,” says in-house designer Ellinor Eliasson. “And our high quality requirements mean we can’t risk even minor colour discrepancies.” Eliasson’s proposal for these residual yarns takes cues from traditional Swedish rag rugs: Sorted into six colour groupings, the spools are used to weave durable rugs, with a new spool added at random when the previous one runs out. The results, launched at New York’s ICFF in May, are unique – unplanned fields of shifting colour trimmed with matching edges. kasthall.com
PLEATED CLOTHING THAT EXPANDS AS A CHILD GROWS
As part of his graduating thesis, aeronautical engineer Ryan Mario Yasin of London has solved one of the most confounding problems facing parents: how to keep a growing child in clothes that fit. The average baby goes through six size changes by the time they start to walk. Yasin discovered this when he bought clothing for his nephew as a gift – by the time he gave it to him, he had already outgrown it. That experience led to Petit Pli, a patent-pending pleated fabric that grows, keeping a child between six months and three years old in water- and windproof pants and shell. The pleats have even been pressed in a way that lets crumbs fall off rather than lodge between the folds. petitpli.com KITCHEN CABINETRY THAT TAPS THE VAST SUPPLY OF WATER BOTTLES
Ikea is hardly the first global manufacturer to identify plastic bottles as an untapped resource. The trick has been to re-engineer the readily available material on a large scale and still maintain a consumer-friendly price point. Earlier this year, the Swedish furniture company broke through with a fully recycled kitchen cabinetry panel; each 40-by-80-centimetre piece is made from 25 water bottles and reclaimed industrial wood. Called Kungsbacka, the panels and complementary Hackås hardware are by Form Us With
Love, who also aimed for a fashionresilient look – another ingredient for extending the life of products. FUWL’S creative director, John Löfgren, compared the system’s fuss-free lines to a fashion basic:
“We wanted it to feel like a black T-shirt, one that’s tuned to fit right, be practical and still be precious.” Kungsbacka and Hackås hardware are now on the market. Ikea.com
THE POWER AND BEAUTY OF RENEWABLE BAMBOO
No stranger to advanced manufacturing techniques, Stefan Diez moved to the other end of the spectrum for a collection made – at the invitation of non-profit initiative Japan Creative – using natural bamboo. Produced with bamboo master Yoshihiro Yamagishi at his workshop on Kōchi Island in Japan, the benches and trestles leave the material in its rawest possible form. Two of the canes that form the legs are cut away in the middle to leave strips, which wrap around the other legs to hold everything together (a Kevlar rope, running down the leg to a wooden peg, keeps the legs from splaying). While the bamboo is raw, it’s anything but rough-hewn: Only meticulous cuts at precise angles, which allow the pieces to fit snugly together when tightened into position, make the benches sturdy enough to stand up to years of use. diezoffice.com, japancreative.jp
HAVE A SEAT IN THE WORLD’S FIRST BIOPLASTIC CHAIR
When forming their eponymous studio in the French Basque Country in 2016, Jean Louis Iratzoki and Ander Lizaso made a commitment to sustainable design. But a chair commission from French manufacturer Alki soon presented them with a dilemma: To achieve their desired shape (a generously proportioned shell atop an oak trestle), a lightweight, mouldable material – namely plastic – was required. Researching alternatives led to a pioneering compromise: the world’s first chair manufactured in bioplastic. Like petro-derived plastic, bioplastic can be injected, extruded and thermoformed into shape, and even recycled. Unlike traditional plastics, however, it is derived from common agricultural crops – a mixture of sugar cane, cornstarch and beet – so it can be industrially composted at the end of its life. alki.fr
AN INFLATABLE THEATRE THAT LEAVES NO FOOTPRINT BEHIND
Since its formation in 1999, Plastique Fantastique has been constructing inflatable pavilions that leave no physical trace once the party is over and audiences have gone home. The massive bubbles – usually large enough to host spectators as well as performers – have turned up on city streets and in parkettes, even underneath highway ramps. As part of the Netherlands’ annual Oerol Festival (hosted on the island of Terschelling), the Berlin studio set up multiple stages composed of domed, soapbubble-like forms, interlocked and set within a forest. The connected spaces created four performance areas that gave way to nature: The first transparent sphere accommodated a tree; the second was squeezed between branches; and the inflated ring connecting the two stages looped around pine and oak trees to create the third stage in its void. The forest itself became the fourth stage. plastique-fantastique.de
ECOLOGICSTUDIO’S BIO.TECH HUT OFFERS A BEAUTIFUL METHOD FOR TURNING ALGAE INTO ENERGY AND FOOD
In Kazakhstan, an energy museum has opened with one floor given over to a pavilion called BIO.TECH HUT. The pavilion was created by Ecologicstudio, a London studio run by Marco Poletto and Claudia Pasquero, who are devoted to creating self-sustaining buildings using algae energy systems.
AZURE: Algae is like super-nature; it can be turned into energy and food. Is the world ready to embrace it?
CLAUDIA PASQUERO: Algae farms already exist. What we are proposing with BIO.TECH HUT is a way to embed the production of algae into an urban context. One of the main purposes of the pavilion is to expose [algae] production and let people visualize it in order to understand it.
MARCO POLETTO: Also, it’s to stimulate discussion around how a building could be made where the walls and ceilings – any surface, really – are alive, capturing oxygen and producing proteins and energy, and so on. We’ve been able to realize that kind of system with BIO.TECH HUT, which is a pretty exciting step because it’s a real building that could be replicated.
What does the hut actually do?
MP: It shows what a dwelling of the future might be like. In particular, it’s organized into three spaces: the Lab, the Living and the Garden. They are kind of interwoven, but they come in a sequence. The Lab is the place of rationality, so that’s where you learn and investigate different types of micro-organisms, using microscopes, for instance. We see it as a kitchen of the future. The second area, the Living, is a space of intuition and artistic appreciation. It’s where you can immerse yourself into this living sculpture. There’s another area in that room that is about revitalizing, a relaxing space that is illuminated only by algae-fuelled biochemical light. The Garden is where you actually learn how to grow and harvest algae, basically how you can transform it into something usable.
It’s also beautiful. That’s not what you expect with algae.
MP: Its aesthetics aren’t simply about style; it’s an appreciation for showing how architecture could come alive. We’re thinking well beyond the idea of a picturesque backdrop like a park. We’re not against that kind of use of nature, of course, but when you start to look at nature’s incredible ability to regenerate and to photosynthesize, you think about how to attain that kind of complex self-sufficiency.
You’ve also made energy visible when it usually isn’t.
MP: Yes, it’s a different way of gaining knowledge that isn’t through reading books. People get a visual measure of how much energy can be produced because the system we’ve built is transparent.
What kind of reactions have you had?
CP: We’ve had many, as we usually do with our pavilions. Because they are beautiful, people are generally fascinated. They often know something about algae, too, but they tend to be shocked by the idea of using it as a food source, even though most of the food we eat isn’t served raw – there is a whole culture associated with cooking. So the question that is also evolving with our installation is, How do you eat algae? In the past we have collaborated with chefs to speculate on that. I’m Italian, so it’s important that we are looking at function as well as desire. Someone commented to us that the installation appeared over-aestheticized to be productive. Actually, the energy systems we have now are aestheticized, too, but in a very brutal way. So I say: Don’t worry about our aesthetics, we can just switch off the light if you don’t want to see it! For us, the more important aspect is to reveal how the process is evolving.
I’ve never eaten algae. Is it good?
CP: When we presented at Expo Milan a few years ago, we developed a dessert that was similar to a Panna Cotta, and it was very good. The taste is somewhere between grass and nuts. C.O. ecologicstudio.com
WHEN DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AND RUDIMENTARY CONSTRUCTION MEET
Not long ago, parametric design was the exclusive playground of starchitects, reserved for big-budget airports and attentiongrabbing concert halls. But as its tools become more ubiquitous, sophisticated digital design is showing up even in smaller projects, enhancing vernacular architecture with better performance and fascinating visual effects.
In Brazil, traditional staggeredbrick screens, called cobogo, are used to filter sunlight and to add thermal mass, preventing hot outside air from heating up the interior. In São Paulo, local firm SUBDV shaded the full-height windows of a factory and office complex behind just such a screen, adding a unique twist: Using parametric design, the architects devised a pattern of subtly rotated blocks for a gradated effect that precisely controls light and shadow inside.
Dubbed COBLOGÓ, the screen exemplifies what SUBDV calls its “tropicalized digital aesthetic.” Using Rhino software, the team used a digital model to generate multiple configurations of the rotated concrete blocks. Then they studied the effects of each one on lighting and heat gain. The final pattern, says architect Guilherme Giantini, “was chosen for its combination of providing 300 to 500 lux of daylight – ideal for an office – while allowing for natural ventilation, and aesthetic value.”
To translate the model into reality, SUBDV devised a system of CNC’D plywood tracks that hold guides laser-cut from corrugated cardboard. Local bricklayers installing the screen needed only to set up the tracks, place the cardboard guides in position, and align the blocks before laying them as usual. “We used standard three-chamber concrete blocks, which gave us more flexibility in the alignment,” says Giantini. “The ability to rotate each brick, combined with a range of differently sized openings, lets this second skin protect the interior from direct sunlight.
“Parametric design allowed us to try out variations instantly. To conduct these kinds of fitness tests and find the best configuration would have been much more time-consuming without the software, if not impossible.” D.D.A. subdv.com
BUILDING COMMUNITIES AND MICROECONOMIES THROUGH DESIGN
Stephen Burks has built his Brooklyn-based practice over the past decade by partnering with traditional artisans from around the globe, developing ongoing relationships and micro-economies in locations as far flung as Senegal, Colombia and India. Most of his objects, including outdoor seating for Dedon and Roche Bobois, use weaving techniques that go back centuries. But Burks has brought a contemporary language to the art, transcending the basketness of baskets by introducing new interpretations – along with new markets – to ancient techniques. “I’m not really the kind of designer who just sends in drawings,” he says. “I believe the closer a designer gets to the act of making, the more potential there is for innovation.” His latest collection, called The Others, is a series of outdoor lamps for Dedon, woven in the Philippines at what he calls “hand factories,” because the end product, made by skilled artisans, is just as reliable in consistency and quality as goods manufactured industrially. stephenburksmanmade.com, dedon.de
↑ One of Lamb’s bench prototypes. ← The panels are 70 per cent postconsumer cotton and 30 per cent thermoplastic binding agent.
Outdoor lanterns for Dedon are crafted in the Philippines using traditional basketweaving techniques.