Architecture + Design
An Amalgamation of Sustainability and Digital Craftsmanship
In conversation with Architects Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki
As a community we are constantly striving for a more sustainable future. Designers and architects are constantly on a quest to find techniques, materials and solutions that leave less carbon footprint, reduce waste and energy consumption. While there have been many experiments and breakthroughs in this direction, Rotterdam- based studio The New Raw have developed circular design concepts that not only close material cycles but also raise public awareness.
The New Raw, a research and design studio, was founded by architects Panos Sakkas and
Foteini Setaki. The studio is focussed on finding new ways of recycling plastic with robotic 3D printing technology. We caught up with Panos and Foteini to understand more about their implementation of circular design, and use of 3D printing for a more sustainable future. A few excerpts from the interview…
Panos: It was in 2015 when we founded The New Raw. We started from the observation that we live in a growing society consuming more and more resources and generating enormous amounts of plastic waste. As creatives, we wanted to approach this problem in a positive manner; by suggesting a new way of thinking regarding materials and their applications and explore what design can do for the environment. This is how we started working on plastic waste in combination with
new technologies. All our designs are fabricated with robots from waste materials that are sourced locally. In this sense, we employ digital craftsmanship and compose sustainable products with a material narrative.
Is 3D printing a sustainable approach?
Foteini: 3D printing is not sustainable by default. We achieve this goal through conscious material use and operating at a local level on each of our projects. We consider 3D printing as the vehicle that brings us closer to a more decentralised and local production. Working in large- scale 3D printing and exclusively with plastic waste, enables us to develop circular furniture that are part of a short, closed cycle and provide local communities anywhere— a more sustainable way to build their own surroundings.
Panos: Working with recycled materials might be challenging because of issues like material contamination or impurity. In our process from waste to product, we follow the steps of sorting, cleaning shredding and then 3D printing. In this manner, we shorten the circle of plastic ( by skipping pelletizing and filament making). In this manner, less energy is involved in the recycling process of plastic.
‘ Print your City’ Movement?
Foteini: ‘ Print your City’ is an initiative by The New Raw that explores how cities can build their public space with participatory design, local resources and 3D printing. As the name suggests, ‘ Print your City’ is a call for action, rallying citizens to recycle household plastic waste in order to transform it into raw material for public furniture, via a robotic 3D printing process and participatory design.
This zero- waste process empowers citizens to sustainably develop their urban regions by creating a short and circular material cycle for plastic and, at the same time, strengthen the local economy with new technologies. ‘ Print Your City’ was first demonstrated as a prototype in Amsterdam. In 2018, it launched the first pilot in a full city in Thessaloniki, Greece.
You also launched the Zero Waste Lab in Greece. Tell us more…
Panos: In 2018, we launched the Zero Waste
Lab in the city center of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Here, citizens became creators and transformed their plastic waste into customisable 3D printed street furniture in a hands- on approach, using our robotic set up. They could bring their plastic waste to the lab and via our online customisation tool design the new city furniture. Hanth Park in central Thessaloniki became the first public space to be redesigned with ‘ Print Your City’ furniture, which were produced at the Zero Waste Lab. Based on the results from the website, 10 pieces of furniture were produced and installed. In this manner, more than 800kg of plastic waste were recycled with 3D printing, saving 2000kg CO2. With this solution, the street furniture is locally sourced and produced ( in a distance radius of 15km). In this manner, we managed to make the recycling process of plastic ‘ transparent’ and motivate citizens to be actively involved not only in the recycling process of plastic but also in the co- creation of public space. 3D PRINTING IS
NOT SUSTAINABLE BY DEFAULT. WE ACHIEVE THIS
GOAL THROUGH CONSCIOUS MATERIAL USE
AND OPERATING AT A LOCAL LEVEL ON EACH OF
OUR PROJECTS. WE CONSIDER 3D PRINTING AS THE VEHICLE
THAT BRINGS US CLOSER TO A MORE DECENTRALISED AND LOCAL PRODUCTION.”