Words by Antti Rimminen

We know that our current way of consuming is not going to make it in the long term if we want to keep this planet alive. Thankfully, many of today’s designers are exploring more sustainable materials for future products.

In this series of articles under the title “The Material Age” we explore just a few of the many ideas that the Around Team feels could make a difference and change the way we think about the materials that surround us.

The second part in the series focuses on recycling.

House of Rolf & Recycled Currency Series by Studio Rolf.fr


House of Rolf is an inspiring example of building and designing something fabulous yet functional from recycled materials. The entire interior of the studio where the designer lives and works is made of materials from a demolished building next-door.

The leading theme in the work by Studio Rolf.fr is the concept of symbiosis. In nature symbiosis manifests itself in many ways, varying from a harmonious co-existence to a form of parasitizing.

Besides the studio in Utrecht, other projects by Studio Rolf are also worth diving into. One that caught our attention is the Recycled Currency Series:  old notes and coins that are no longer legal tender are explored as a material for interior objects.

Recycled Currency Series
One Dollar Bench, Recycled Currency Series by Studio Rolf

Hinting at the arbitrary value of money with historic cases of hyperinflation (and most recently in Venezuela), shifts in economic power and the digitalization of payment systems, the designer recasts coins and notes as building blocks for a series of benches, dishes and other household objects. These loaded and disputed symbols lose their monetary value and gain a practical character as a constructive element.

Will we see some similarly interesting projects soon, as the 500 euro note will be phased out by the end of 2018?

For more information, visit the Rolf.fr website.

Woojai Lee: PaperBricks

PaperBricks by Woojai Lee:
PaperBricks Pallet Series by Woojai Lee

Paper Bricks are made of recycled newspapers and wood glue. They have strong strength and stone-like marbling aesthetics of a construction material while keeping the warmth and soft tactility of the paper.

They are highly influenced by the designer’s interest in materials, craftsmanship, drawing and sculptures. WooJai Lee, a Korean – New Zealander designer based in the Netherlands who likes to work with different materials, experimenting and exploring their hidden potentials.

Using the PaperBricks, the PaperBricks Pallet series were created to show how the PaperBricks could be used constructively. The series consists of two coffee tables and a bench.

PaperBricks by Woojai Lee
PaperBricks by Woojai Lee

Paper is one of the most commonly known recyclable materials but the quality worsens after every cycle in the process so it is not indefinite. Paperbricks offers an option for the material to be used even when it no longer can be used as new material for newspapers.

Zero Waste Bistro

For New York’s design week in May 2018, the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York invited chefs from the Helsinki-based Restaurant Nolla to bring their zero-waste food philosophy to New York.

Co-curated by Harri Koskinen and Linda Bergroth, the temporary bistro was built on themes of circular economy, new material innovations and sustainable design.

Zero Waste Bistro
Zero Waste Bistro’s bespoke communal table and table set is made of Durat Palace, designed by Linda Bergroth. Photo by Nicholas Calcott.

The space of the pop-up was built entirely of recycled and recyclable materials, using iconic design pieces that last from generation to generation. The architecture was made of a material made from tetrapak waste,  and the communal table of Durat´s new 100% recyclable composite made partly of post-industrial materials.

Billions of disposable cups end in landfills annually, and Kotkamills presented their answer to the problem with a repulpable material. Another Finnish company Sulapac have also created a completely new plastic free premium packaging material that has recently gained commercial success.

Click here for more info about the Zero Waste Bistro at Wanted Design.

Really By Kvadrat – from a soft textile to a hard board

Really by Kvadrat
Cotton waste is the basis for Solid Textile Board. Photo: Really by Kvadrat

Really is a product from the Danish textile brand Kvadrat that seeks to close the loop in the textiles industry. According to Really, 95% of the textiles we use could probably be recycled but only 25% actually are.

Solid Textile Board is manufactured from end-of-life cotton and wool sourced from fashion and textile industries, industrial laundries, households and the leftovers in the fabric cutting process of making Kvadrat products.

The manufacturing does not involve the use of dyes, water or toxic chemicals and generates only recyclable waste. The material used can eventually be re-granulated and formed into new boards.

Really Benches designed by Max Lamb. Photography by Angela Moore.

Responding to the urgent global issue of waste, Really upcycles end-of-life textiles to create materials that challenge the design and architecture industries to rethink their use of resources, and to design with a circular economy in mind.

For further details, visit the Really website or the Kvadrat channels on Vimeo or YouTube.

For part 1 in this series of articles, click here. Stay tuned for more innovative material ideas in the coming months here on Around.