Go­ing be­yond mere plas­tic

> The de­sign world is in­creas­ingly em­brac­ing both sus­tain­able and mean­ing­ful pro­duc­tion with an eye to im­prov­ing daily life

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

PLAS­TIC chairs are sold around the globe. But to­day, that ‘plas­tic’ might ac­tu­ally be a veg­etable com­pound, as the de­sign world in­creas­ingly em­braces ‘green’ and ‘mean­ing­ful’ pro­duc­tion, ex­perts in the field say.

“For both con­sumers and cre­ators, in­ter­est in ‘the sus­tain­able’ is grow­ing each year,” said Franck Mil­lot, di­rec­tor of the an­nual Paris De­sign Week – a huge show­case for the lat­est trends in global fur­nish­ings and dec­o­ra­tion.

“De­sign­ers don’t just cre­ate beau­ti­ful ob­jects, they also think in terms of im­prov­ing daily life,” he told AFP.

Typ­i­cal is French ar­chi­tect and de­signer Pa­trick Nadeau, a pi­o­neer in ur­ban hang­ing gar­dens and plant-based de­sign.

“Plants, veg­etable ma­te­rial, with their colours, their mat­ter, their translu­cence, they help cre­ate aware­ness, a liv­ing, evolv­ing frame­work,” he said.

In France’s Cham­pagne cap­i­tal of Reims, he won ku­dos for an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly so­cial hous­ing project.

De­spite strict bud­get con­straints, the homes were all made of wood and in­cor­po­rated plants and slop­ing earthen walls – as well as op­ti­mal ori­en­ta­tion – to en­hance ther­mal in­su­la­tion, light­ing and har­mony with na­ture.

The con­cept harks back to the 1920s, when vi­sion­ary US ar­chi­tect R. Buck­min­ster Fuller ad­vo­cated that “less is more” and that de­sign should be “an­tic­i­pa­tory” to help solve world prob­lems.

Fuller’s no­tions hit home with the 1970s oil cri­sis.

An em­bargo slapped on in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries over US in­volve­ment in the 1973 ArabIs­raeli War sud­denly cut back sup­plies.

As a re­sult, th­ese na­tions be­gan to re­think their depen­dency on oil.

For Nadeau, the post-oil ‘en­ergy tran­si­tion’ is also a re­spon­si­bil­ity for de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects.

He said: “We must em­brace th­ese ques­tions; if not, we’ll re­sign our­selves to old stan­dards rather than con­sider new ways of liv­ing.”

One who has taken up the chal­lenge is Kartell, the high-end Ital­ian de­sign firm that has up­held plas­tics as a ‘vec­tor’ of moder­nity for 70 years.

In April, it launched its first ‘biodegrad­able’ chair made from plant-based waste and micro­organ­isms.

“Such eco-de­sign al­lows you to pro­duce with­out de­stroy­ing, it’s part of our strat­egy for the fu­ture,” Kartell pres­i­dent Clau­dio Luti told French daily Le Monde.

The switch of­ten in­volves a high-tech rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of ageold plant mat­ter like li­nen fab­ric from flax, hemp, jute, sea­weed and ve­tiver, an eas­ily-wo­ven fi­brous root com­mon in Mada­gas­car now much in de­mand in Europe and the United States.

Cen­turies ago, re­sistent li­nen was pressed in suc­ces­sive lay­ers to make ar­mour for Alexan­der the Great and paint­ing can­vas for the world’s great mas­ters.

To­day, it is mixed with resin to pro­duce snow­boards, chairs, hel­mets and car doors – an ecofriendly sub­sti­tute for prod­ucts once re­liant on fos­sil fuel-based car­bon and plas­tic-based fi­bre­glass.

Sim­i­larly, tough jute is used to pro­duce the solid hulls of boats.

Other ma­te­ri­als find a sec­ond – of­ten classier – life through ‘up­cy­cling’, a move­ment to re­pur­pose old or dis­carded ob­jects so they do not add to the world’s garbage mass.

One spe­cial­ist at the Paris De­sign Week was Dutch firm Res­cued, with the motto: “From waste to won­der­ful”.

It of­fers ev­ery­thing from pa­per chan­de­liers made of printshop waste to chair cush­ions fash­ioned from old blan­kets.

Lux­ury firms have also joined the trend, like Her­mes whose ‘Petit h’ lab­o­ra­tory re­cy­cles its high-end scraps for re­sale as mug hold­ers, bracelets, and even leather pin­wheels.

One French de­signer adds modern bells and whis­tles such as WiFi and Blue­tooth to big old vin­tage ra­dios.

Along with ‘up­cy­cling’, an­other mantra th­ese days is ‘Slow De­sign’ – which took its cue from the Slow Food move­ment – “a holis­tic, sus­tain­able ap­proach that em­pha­sises the long-term ben­e­fit of prod­ucts and their im­pact on the well-be­ing of con­sumers and the planet”, said De­sign Week di­rec­tor Mil­lot.

With Slow De­sign, “there is re­newed in­ter­est in old-fash­ioned knowhow and crafts­man­ship, ob­jects that have a his­tory, where there is a hu­man touch and a de­sire for rea­son­able con­sump­tion”, he added.

Mil­lot con­ceded that tout­ing ecol­ogy in what is ba­si­cally a prod­uct-driven sales sec­tor may be con­tra­dic­tory, but said he feels the young gen­er­a­tion of de­sign­ers are more “aware of the stakes”. – AFP

At Paris De­sign Week 2016, de­sign­ers are pro­duc­ing eco-friendly de­signs for a more sus­tain­able fu­ture.

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