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New materials, new perspectives

07 November 2018

Joris de Groot, In4nite | Photo: Michele Giebing
This year, Dutch Design Week presents 8 design trends that mark the most important developments in the field of design. The fifth trend is all about New Materials.

A good design depends on sustainable materials. And so the fifth DDW trend is all about raw materials, biomaterials and material research. Which innovations could be seen in this field during DDW? And what is the role of the designer in the development of materials? DDW 2018 participants appeared to be pioneers of a new movement that could drive industry to employ daring materials. During DDW they unlocked the most out-of-the box waste materials, refuse products and biomaterials as an option to manufacture with. Blood, algae, proteins and recycled polyester fibres, are these perhaps the raw materials of the future?

Algae Lab Luma, Studio Klarenbeek
© Max Kneefel

Inventive and daring solutions

The New Material Award exhibition introduced this year’s visitors to the reuse of unconventional waste, creating awareness of our human impact on the earth and new biomaterials. The big winner of the New Material Award 2018 was Algae Lab Luma by Studio Klarenbeek. This Arnhem-based design studio developed a bio-plastic from algae that is not only sustainable, it is also aesthetically pleasing. Many DDW visitors stopped to admire the colourful and refined application of algae in a series of cups and saucers. Algae Lab Luma demonstrates that sustainability, innovation and beauty can go hand-in-hand and, in doing so, capture our imagination. 

There were still more innovative solutions waiting to be found among the New Material Award finalists. Basse Stittgen presented an idea to transform a remarkable bi-product generated by the meat industry into a new valuable material. Each year millions of litres of animal blood are wasted in the meat industry. Stittgen believes this is a missed opportunity. What if we breathed new life into this raw ‘waste’? Through heating and processing the blood Stittgen created a new raw material for objects. Whether this material will actually find its way into commercial products is not yet certain. But at the very least these objects make the consumer aware of his behaviour. 

Xandra van Eijk investigated the effect of various domestic agents on different metals. The results are a visual interplay of weathering and beauty. But what does this mean for our landscape on a wider scale? This is the essential question that lurks behind this presentation.

Remodelling discarded textiles

The European project Trash-2-cash also dealt with the remodelling and transformation of different plastics. During this three-year project scientists and designers Aalto University in  Helsinki got to work with others on developing new textile fibres from discarded clothing. With the help of de-polymerisation they demonstrated the possibility of acquiring recycled polyester fibres with which new clothing could be woven. Trash-to-Cash also shows the treatment of natural materials with Ioncell-F-technology. This is a process in which wood is transformed into textile without the use of toxic chemicals. A comprehensive presentation of these various technologies was on show in the Klokgebouw.

From car mat to footwear

The processing and transformation of plastic was also the focus of In4nite II. From this collaboration between manufacturer Low&Bonar and a selection of Dutch designers, Colback, still unknown to most people, was introduced in 2017. This year they presented new applications for this industrial unwoven plastic. This material often disappears into reinforcement solutions for industrial materials like carpets, car mats and air filters. This formed an essential source of inspiration for Joris de Groot, one of the participating designers. He made an inventive shoe from Colback, employing the manufacturing technologies hidden in making car mats. During DDW visitors could witness the secrets of this manufacturing process from behind the scenes.

Slate, spider’s silk and waste water; as a new raw material?

Students from the Tomas Bata University have given slate, a natural waste material, a new purpose in the project Géo. Slate production in the Czech Republic produces a finely ground dust that is usually just piled up in the quarries. The students got to work with new technologies like 3D printing to transform this dust into a series of household products. More possibilities that nature has to offer for material development can be seen in the Swedish exhibition “What Matter/s”. This exhibition shows how researchers, biologists and designers have experimented with proteins and spider silk.

Kaumera project
© Billie van Katwijk

In previous trends we also saw a number of biomaterials in passing, but in this trend they really cannot be missed. The architects from Werkstatt demonstrate that the bio-composite material ‘hempcrete’ made from hemp lime is ready for large-scale use. They developed a complete house, ‘The Hemp House’, using this material. The Dutch designers Nienke Hoogvliet, Billie van Katwijk and Jeroen Wand show us that waste water also can be useful even after we have flushed the toilet. In collaboration with the Dutch Water Authorities they developed new applications for Kaumera, the material that remains after purification of the waste water. This coating-like substance appears to be useful for dyeing textiles and for making ceramics.

Out-of-the-box thinking can bring about change. Something that all these projects have in common.  They place both consumption and production in a different light, in the hope that this will effect change. And who knows, we might be drinking a cup of coffee from an algae glass by Studio Klarenbeek in 2025 and filter our waste water to dye clothes ourselves sustainably.