1. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Where do you come from, and how did you get started with design?
We are Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki. 2 Greek architects who love to design, craft and create! We started The NEW RAW to combine 2 things: Panos' obsession for things that others see as waste and Foteini's passion for digital craftsmanship. Our creative practice arose after we organized and supervised a workshop on a Greek island. A few months later, we received a research grant. This allowed us to officially start developing design concepts based on robot manufacturing and recycled plastic for public spaces in Amsterdam.
2. You introduced us to your upcycling vision on Instagram via #heyddw. Can you tell us a bit more about what you focus on with The NEW RAW?
In our work, we explore the boundaries of sustainable design regarding the use of materials, design and production. And we are developing methods to process plastic waste with robots! We aim to redefine how we see and experience plastic waste with each of our projects and products. We do this by combining functionality, beauty and storytelling. This is how we create sustainable products and share messages and stories about an environmentally conscious, sustainable way of life.
3. This work – with plastic waste as the main raw material – mainly focuses on furniture for outdoor environments. What can you tell us about that?
Plastic as a material is made to be used outdoors! That is why we often use it for applications in public spaces. We want to develop products that upgrade our constructed environment and the quality of our lives. Our journey starts with street furniture. In the future, we want to expand our scope and create projects and products such as fountains, playgrounds, gym equipment, parts of facades, bus stops and much more. Recently we also had the opportunity to test our materials and designs in retail and interiors.
4. Where do you look for inspiration?
We live in cities. As a result, we sometimes tend to forget the elegant solutions and hidden gems found in nature. So we like to escape city life and visit remote and untouched landscapes. Then we draw inspiration from the unexpected and organic way that things grow, change and adapt.
5. What do you think the future looks like for your work when it comes to creating products?
We work with a 360-degree approach in design and production. We believe that the future of design and manufacturing is decentralized and based on local plastic waste as a local resource. This is how we can create a more sustainable future for urban centres and coastal and island areas. Local manufacturing can benefit from global design thinking while being independent of global material supply chains.
6. You settled here in the Netherlands from Greece. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make?
It wasn't love at first sight... but the Netherlands is now our home! We love to be active between Greece and the Netherlands and live the full European experience through extreme opposites! The biggest adjustment was getting used to having an early dinner and not worrying about whether it's raining or not! Aside from that, the Netherlands – and especially Rotterdam – is a creative place that loves to turn crazy ideas into reality, and that's the main reason why this city has stolen our hearts!
7. If you could choose anyone in the world to work with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist, or anyone else), who would it be and why?
That's a difficult question! We would love to travel back in time and work with Ray & Charles Eames. Great innovators, 2 tremendously creative forces and a true inspiration for both of us.
8. How has the pandemic affected your work so far? How do you look back on the past year?
The past year was exceptional for many reasons. To look on the bright side, the corona crisis reminded us that we need to be more open to the unknown. But also that we should take the time to reflect daily and keep doing the things we love. We were lucky enough to be able to continue working on what we enjoy most… shaping our plastic waste and taking care of our 1-year-old son!
9. If you could ask yourself one question for this interview, what would it be? And what would your answer be?
Is recycling worth our time and effort? Yes, it is! Although recycling isn't as effective as it should be, it's the only way forward! We have to make it work! And that is what we advocate. Replacing plastic with paper, bamboo or wood products is not the solution! It just shifts the problem to forests and farmland. It's time for better packaging design as well as for other single-use products. Also, get rid of the disposable mentality! Technically, recycling works. But it only really benefits the environment when it also makes financial sense.
10. Is there any news you would like to share with the DDW community?
Lately, we've been doing a lot of R&D in the field of materials, digital craftsmanship and new possible applications for both. We are also expanding our partnerships in Europe and the US. We recently launched Elements. We took our inspiration from patterns and textures that you often see in coastal areas for this series of beach furniture and parts. They are digitally crafted from upcycled marine plastic and produced to order. Soon there will also be more news about 2 new products for the public space and a project about the local and decentralized processing of plastic waste in a remote location.