Sustainability Emerges As The Reigning Theme At Stockholm Design Week 2019

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From February 4 to 10, 2019, all eyes of the global architecture and design world were focused on Stockholm for a week of design festivities in the Swedish capital. The most important week of the year for Scandinavian design sees showrooms, studios, and hotels throw open their doors to visitors from across the globe for creative spectacles, every year. This year’s edition of the event, which was launched in 2002, saw many of the displayed designs adopting sustainability as their core theme.

Architecture studio Snohetta, for instance, unveiled its S-1500 chair at the Design Week, which is made entirely from waste plastic and features a subframe made from repurposed steel. The chair is part of Snohetta’s upcoming collection of latest chair design, which is made from recycled plastic and steel taken from Norwegian fish farming industries. With this new collection, Snohetta works toward creating a more circular economy. The project is being developed in collaboration with furniture manufacturer Nordic Comfort Products (NCP), as per Stockholm Design Week.

The S-1500 chair, which is modeled on Norwegian modernist designer Bendt Winge’s classic R-48 chair created in the late 1960s, also manufactured by NCP, is made using materials recycled from local fish farming companies in northern Norway, including Kvaroy Fiskeoppdrett and Nova Sea, that produce large amounts of waste. These firms supply NCP with discarded fish nets, ropes, and pipes left over from their operations, which are processed and ground into a granulate substance that can then be injected into a mold. The technique of injection molding, as described by Snohetta, allows them to play around with different surface patterns and textures, and also eliminates the need for any supplementary work once the chair has been produced. This method also affords each chair a unique quality, despite being mass-produced. For instance, the streaked appearance of the S-1500’s matte, dark green surface gives it a semblance of marble, despite being made from recycled plastic. Additionally, not using new raw materials in the manufacturing process gives the chair one of the lowest carbon footprints in the market at the moment.

Snohetta hopes that utilizing plastic waste from local businesses will not only contribute to building a circular economy, but will also encourage consumers to see waste as a valuable resource rather than scrap material. Talking about their new project, Snohetta architect Stian Alessandro Ekkernes Rossi said, “Instead of sourcing virgin plastic from the other side of the world, the ability to get high-quality, recycled plastic from the neighbouring businesses created a win-win situation for all.” Rossi further added, “In order to reduce the need to produce new, virgin plastic, consumers and industry need to acknowledge the value inherent in used plastic and find ways to substitute virgin plastic with recycled material. With the development of the S-1500 chair, we hope to inspire people to employ waste material in new and sustainable ways through innovation and design.”

Reiterating Snohetta’s attempt to create value from waste, Swedish design collective Malmo Upcycling Service also forced architecture and design professionals to rethink their production processes through its exhibition of furniture made from recycled materials at the Stockholm Design Week.

Interestingly titled, “You Can’t Sit With Us! Unless…,” the exhibition featured eight chairs and stools, each created by a different designer from repurposed waste materials such as canvas, vinyl, wood, leather, and foam. Playing on the well-known quote from the 2004 American teen comedy film “Mean Girls,” the designers stated, “You can’t sit with us! Unless… you also work toward circular solutions in your business.”

The exhibition, which was on show at the furniture fair, the hub of Stockholm Design Week, aimed to challenge the Scandinavian furniture industry to scrutinize the sustainability of its production methods. Exhibiting brands were asked to complete a questionnaire, rating how high their ambitions are for sustainable production.

Malmo Upcycling Service believes the furniture industry could be more circular not just by reducing and recycling waste material from production, but also by taking responsibility for products after use. Reflecting this belief, the eight designs presented by the designers of the Collective at the exhibition tried to combine various materials and experimented with the different aesthetics that the material combinations created. The designers also designed products for disassembly so that the materials can be reused or recycled again, minimizing their own waste in the design process.

The studio produced the furniture collection with the help of local manufacturers in Malmo, who specialize in the production of various materials, in order to find the best way to refine and process the materials using as little energy as possible. All props used in the creation of its stand at the design fair were also made from waste materials, in keeping with the studio’s ethos. The designers used joist and plywood discarded from various construction trades, and leather from a closed shoe workshop in Malmo, alongside using waste foam from the production of sofas and beds. However, most of the materials used in the collection, such as canvas and vinyl, were sourced from a boat-cover manufacturer. Designed to be hard-wearing and to endure all types of weather conditions, these materials are high-quality and strong, making them suitable for use in furniture production.

Talking about the exhibition, the eight designers involved in it said, “‘You Can’t Sit With Us, Unless…’ puts value on waste material and challenged the way we look at our resources. Most importantly, this collection was an exhortation supporting those who already design in sustainable manners, and an urge for those who must step up their game.”

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This, however, is not the first attempt by the Swedish design collective to challenge the prevalent production processes to make them more sustainable. At last year’s DesignMarch festival in Iceland, the Swedish studio similarly repurposed waste materials from Swedish brick, glass, acrylic, stone, and sheet metal manufacturers to create a range of decorative home objects, including a coffee table and a circular mirror.

As rightly put by the designers of the collective who participated in the Stockholm Design Week’s exhibition, Malmo Upcycling Service shares “an unshakable will to challenge and encourage the industry to work in a more sustainable manner, as well as create conditions for circular manufacturing.”

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