‘Materialized’ to pave new paths in biomateriality at the Milan Design Week

The exhibition by Spazio Gamma within the Isola Design District envisions a step closer to circular designing with a series of inventive biomaterials for a sustainable future.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jun 03, 2022

While the world gears to celebrate June 05 as the World Environment Day, Milan's upcoming Salone del Mobile will be the stage for innovations, designs, talks, exhibitions, and initiatives from the design world envisioning a sustainable future. Following up on this convergence, an exhibition titled Materialized from the Isola Design District will bring forward ground-breaking biomaterials and sustainable inventions that rethink the use of materials varying from canine fur to citric peel by young talents, brands, and studios from around the world. The exhibition intends to publicise the potential of waste materials to act as an alternative to conventional materials that result in major pollution and toxic emissions.

STIR picks eight intriguing biomaterials from the showcase to look out for:

1. SHED by Yuki Hadal & Siyuan Wang

  • SHED by Chinese designers Yuki Hadal & Siyuan Wang combines food waste with a process of drying, shredding, and mixing it with agar-agar, glycerine, and water to create a composite biomaterial | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    SHED by Chinese designers Yuki Hadal and Siyuan Wang combines food waste with a process of drying, shredding, and mixing it with agar-agar, glycerine, and water to create a composite biomaterialImage: Courtesy of Yuki Hadal & Siyuan Wang
  • SHED could be used to make gloves, caps, furniture, and other accessories 
 | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    SHED could be used to make gloves, caps, furniture, and other accessories Image: Courtesy of Yuki Hadal & Siyuan Wang

Addressing the report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food is discarded each year, Japanese designer Yuki Hadal and Chinese designer Siyuan Wang created SHED. While emphasising the rising implication of food waste as an unsustainable threat for now and the future, the designers created a material out of these wastes. After a tedious process of drying, shredding, and mixing them with agar-agar, glycerine, and water, the food waste is rebirthed as a material that can be used to make gloves, caps, furniture, and other accessories. The new material thus created, named SHED, follows the natural course of time and is embodied in the literal definitions of the word shed: natural fall, leaves, or to change human skin. The designers state that by altering the proportions and the kind of food waste used, SHED can be moulded into sheets that resemble leather, vinyl, and resin, and in a different range of colours.

2. The Seaweed Archives by Studio Tång

Swedish students Joline Schikan and Barbara Gwóźdź created an alternative building material from seaweed | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
Swedish students Joline Schikan and Barbara Gwóźdź created an alternative building material from seaweed Image: Courtesy of Studio Tång

Abundant along the coastline of Sweden, seaweed requires no land, fertilisers, or freshwater, and grows about 30 times faster than land-based plants. Joline Schikan and Barbara Gwóźdź, two local architecture students explore the versatility of this easy-to-grow algae as a building material. Along with seaweed, they experiment with seagrass and microalgae on architectural elements to test their tactility, visual appearance, and water resistance. The material experiment included bioplastic sheets, bioplastic inflatable structures, bricks, panels, and seaweed shingles serving as both interior and exterior materials.

3. Kabes by Raghad Saqfalhait and Mariam Dahabreh (Sakeb)

  • Design collective Sakeb conceived a biomaterial using leftover wood, stone dust, and natural binders | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    Design collective Sakeb conceived a biomaterial using leftover wood, stone dust, and natural binders Image: Courtesy of Sakeb
  • Kabes Stool by Sakeb | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    Kabes Stool by Sakeb Image: Courtesy of Sakeb

The Palestinian design collective Sakeb is on an extensive journey of creating products out of industrial waste and natural binders since its launch in 2019. Raghad Saqfalhait and Mariam Dahabreh believe in the potential of the natural drying processes of biomaterials and adopting them in the forms that they design. Kabes Stool is a product of leftover wood and stone dust, and natural binders. The monolithic stool tells a story of a dynamic process that brought together a cast top on the four hollow cylinders that took shape through unpredictable deformations. Bringing together design, research, prototyping, innovation and visualisation, Sakeb's Kabes stool adds to their incredible collections of the Terrazzo Pen and the Sawdust Pen holders.

4. Citrus Peel Wall by Matter Matters

  • Matter Matters uses citrus peels to create a biomaterial for the building industry | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    Matter Matters uses citrus peels to create a biomaterial for the building industry Image: Courtesy of Matter Matters
  • The biomaterial created in the form of sheets | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    The biomaterial created in the form of sheets Image:Courtesy of Matter Matters
  • Citrus Peel Wall incorporates the biomaterial within a 3D printed frame  | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    Citrus Peel Wall incorporates the biomaterial within a 3D printed frame Image: Courtesy of Matter Matters

While building materials are responsible for almost 20 per cent of annual global CO2 emissions, Matter Matters introduces a biomaterial from a fruit seen in every kitchen. The designers explore the idea of using citrus peel as a sustainable building material for architectural applications. The flexible, translucent, and pectin-based biodegradable leather uses dehydrated, crushed peels of orange, lemons, and grapefruit. The lightweight, porous, space-defining, and light-altering screen wall is made by fitting the biomaterial within the openings of the modular and dimensional 3D printed frames.

5. Ostra by Markos Georgiou

  • Ostra as a ceramic-like biomaterial made of waste oyster shells | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    Ostra as a ceramic-like biomaterial made of waste oyster shells Image: Courtesy of Markos Georgiou
  • Lamps made out of Ostra | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    Lamps made out of Ostra Image: Courtesy of Markos Georgiou

Markos Georgiou presents Ostra as a ceramic-like biomaterial made of waste oyster shells. Prioritising circular economy, the material is designed in a closed loop that aims to aid the regeneration of the natural systems of our world. Made from Ostra, the Ostra lamp is a statement of what the material can achieve in terms of design and construction. Following extensive research and experimentation, Ostra was made by using seaweed as a binding material for the oyster shell powder. According to Georgiou, this biomaterial can be used as a sustainable alternative to concrete.

6. Coffee Chaff by Emma Thyni

  • This biomaterial uses the residual waste from coffee roasteries | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    This biomaterial uses the residual waste from coffee roasteries Image: Courtesy of Emma Thyni
  • The material is quiet textural and malleable | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
    The material is quiet textural and malleable Image: Courtesy of Emma Thyni

A believer of the thought that "a mistake can lead to something in the material-driven design", Emma Thyni created a biomaterial out of coffee chaff, a residual waste sourced from coffee roasteries. The prototype presents two materials, a malleable and robust material, and transparent material with a uniquely developed pattern. However, even when the texture and structure of the two materials differ, both engulf the user in the aroma of coffee beans and caramel. The potential use of the sustainable material is being experimented with the creation of various products from them including bowls, and candle holders. Furthermore, the designer widens the horizons of the sensorial and experiential effect of coffee chaff by creating jewellery from it.

7. Post Paper Studio by By the End of May

The initiative presents different ways of combining paper waste to form an inventive biomaterial  | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
The initiative presents different ways of combining paper waste to form an inventive biomaterial Image: Courtesy of Post Paper Studio

Portugal-based research and design lab, By the End of May, creates a series of open source tools and recipes enabling anyone anywhere to transform local paper waste into valuable design material. While the 'recipes' put forward multiple ways of combining different paper waste together to form materials that are more reliable in properties, texture, and workabilities, the 'tools' is a modular system that helps press the pulp into sheets, bricks, new objects or furniture. The series by Post Paper Studio is an initiative to reduce cardboard waste and to explore different possibilities of using them in design and construction. Through the series, the studio encourages creatives to use the tools and recipes to alter and create new materials out of paper waste.

8. Wolfwall by Alessandra Tuseo

Wolfwall is created from canine fibres obtained from the process of molting | Materialized | Milan Design Week | STIRworld
Wolfwall is created from canine fibres obtained from the process of molting Image: Courtesy of Alessandra Tuseo

With no doubt, dogs are a man's most loyal friend. But, in the cycle of growing fond of dogs, designer Alessandra Tuseo came across a rather surprising finding. "Annually in Italy, at least 115 million kilos of undercoat would be naturally produced while dogs go through moulting," she shares. On further calculation of the amount of shed, she realised that such a quantity would allow producing an unimaginable spread of felt. This paved the way for the origin of Wolfwall, an eco-sustainable thermal-phono insulation material derived from canine fibres. On an experimental basis, supported by intensive research, the handmade prototype exhibited high performing thermal characteristics and great sound-absorbing capacities. On the journey of exploring more potential and possibilities of Wolfwall, the designer believes that it will breathe new life in a wasted resource, and promote a correct eco-sustainable approach to upcycling.

(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)

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.

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