by Jincy IypeMar 16, 2022
Architecture and design can be an act of continuous revolution, but mostly remains a quagmire of waste and unnecessary material production. There is no doubt that the industry at large is implicit in contributing to the worsening ecological health of the planet, with the alarming rates of construction, producing waste and pollution with abandon. What must we do to improve, to really make a difference?
Doubling down on its commitment to sustainable design with nature at the forefront, Salone 2022, on show from June 7-12, 2022, commissioned Italian architect Mario Cucinella to build the fair's central installation, Design with Nature, a designed ecosystem built with repurposed and recycled elements.
How far has design come with regard to sustainability? Can we accelerate the ushering in of a new era in the way we live (in cities and at home)? Such were some pertinent inquires addressed by the installation, questioning the role of the design and architectural community “as prefigures of future spaces, in a bid to (re)build the difficult equilibrium between territory, city and landscape.”
Also addressing the platitude of sustainability that has taken over the global architectural and design realm, Design with Nature aimed to put the spotlight squarely on the future of the way we live, across its three primary themes of "ecological transition", the "home as the first urban building block" and "the city as a mine".
There is another world and it is in this one, global biomass.
In 2020, the amount of anthropogenic mass exceeded the weight of all global living biomass.
1125 gigatonnes of biomass
1154 gigatonnes of anthropogenic mass
What model of development should we adopt to progress on a finite planet?
What are the endangered resources?
Resources exhausted on 2022
Sand by 2040
Copper by 2044
Gas by 2046
Oil by 2048
Carbon by 2054
Aluminium by 2072
The installation came alive with flora interspersing curving wooden platforms comprising seating spaces, a restaurant, bar, library and conference area, reminiscent of a modernised Italian piazza. Displays hosting natural and plant materials turned the massive space into a landscape of greens, a space for dialogue, a refuge for discussion, sharing, reading, and reflecting.
It also explored the leitmotifs of circular economy and reuse culture, propagating the idea that cities could be "possible "reserves" of the future", where most raw materials employed in construction could be sourced, upcycled or recycled. The created sinuous, luxuriant “green” swathe represented the importance of forging a new, fundamental friendship with nature and ecology.
STIR visited the educational installation on display at Salone 2022 and spoke to Cucinella, who stressed the idea of a city as a mine: a shortage of minerals and materials in the next three to five decades is imminent, but the urban realm already contains materials that can be mindfully used (and reused) - concrete, bricks, steel, aluminium, glass, and wood, to name a few – everything is here already, and so much of it. "So maybe we need to consider the city as a material opportunity because the city is sempiternal, always ongoing, where demolition, refurbishment, change, and rebuilding remain perpetual processes. All this material ends up being wasted but can be made useful again, to create new buildings. If this is the rate and systems we keep being part of, in the future, there will be less and less access to material, and by creating new ones, we generate even more waste which is detrimental. Even if we are able to build 50 per cent of a building from these recycled or repurposed materials, we are significantly reducing damage. Think about it,” he proposes.
Everybody is aware of the problem, as well as guilty. We need to act now. – Mario Cucinella
Two large tables of 68x22m over 1,400 sqm of space created a green, educational 'organism' that narrated proposed materials for intended ecological transition for cities, where the conceived space became congregational for visitors at Milan Design Week 2022, to pause, mingle and contemplate the impacts of human activities on the planet.
People are rediscovering the value of controlled yet deliberate, effectual social gatherings after the pandemic-infested years, carrying the potential of forging a new, healthy balance with nature, where we are conscious of the amount of intensity of the spaces we inhabit, as well available resources, which was also one of the key themes tackled at this year's post-pandemic edition of Salone del Mobile.
So maybe we need to consider the city as a material opportunity because the city is sempiternal, always ongoing, where demolition, refurbishment, change, and rebuilding remain perpetual processes. All this material ends up being wasted but can be made useful again, to create new buildings. – Mario Cucinella
"A large space mindful of the design and the environment, dedicated to the new sociality. An installation in which the word “ecosystem” is fundamental and with which we aim to show that our vision of the future needs to be “ecosystemic” and capable of bringing knowledge, skills and technologies together for a new generation of materials and design. The final and specific goal of “ecosystemic know how” – if we can call it that – will be to make life better through a rediscovered respect for nature,” informs Cucinella, the founding architect and artistic director of Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA).
Design with Nature. For new materials. For a new habitat. For a better city.
The design of the entire snaking structure allowed individual attendance, small as well as large groups of people to sit together, which came about rather unintentionally, according to Cucinella – "The idea was to create an organism, an organic setting with an intended purpose that could also function as a conferential space. We created a space where people could sit around the table to discuss books or their impressions of the exhibition, organically inhabiting the ecosystem," says the Italian architect.
The virtuous way cycles of nature leave no waste, finding more than one function and one life for itself, the installation's components came about as an intentional assemblage of forms, functions and materials that eventually finds fresh lives and new destinations - a small library for a school, a classroom, a chair for a public space, a table for a laboratory. "The materials in this installation derive from natural supply chains – demonstrating that ecological transition is already ongoing and that businesses can be the catalysts of this change – or from waste products upcycled and recycled. Cities are rich fonts of the latter, veritable reserves of resources and materials recoverable through circular processes,” they continue.
Design with Nature was also demonstrative of how waste, vegetable, animal and generated by humans (agricultural, industrial or urban) has the potential of being transformed and used as “something else,” breathing new life and purpose for themselves. This not only encompasses recycling plastic bottles, waste from shoe making and furnishing processes, and sun awnings but the formulation of new fabrics for the fashion and textile industries, from coffee waste to floor coverings, fruit peels turned to leather, mycelium to insulating panels, which were on display as proof for onlookers to ruminate upon.
A series of totems peppered the sustainable design exhibition, providing visitors with descriptions of the natural, and not-so-natural materials researched upon and studied by MCA, with the scientific support of Professor Ingrid Paoletti of the Milan Polytechnic University. Texts and graphics indicating the origin, the transformation and processing stages, the use and the finished product, narrated the new life and potential of the material.
“Design with Nature proves that we can come up with a different way of building and creating products in conjunction with nature, without continuing to consume raw materials but by triggering virtuous ecological behaviours,” said Salone, succinctly summarising the core of the installation. Beings of architecture and design can be conduits of re-establishing healthy relationships with the planet, where we give back as much as we take from it, where nurturing takes place simultaneously with borrowing, establishing amity with nature. As Cucinella affirms - "Design is a place of peace".
STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.