matériO Prague / Het Nieuwe Instituut


Exhibition – Discussion – Masterclass

Three Czech and three Dutch designers present their innovative material solutions and help to find answers for questions of today.

Anything new always starts out as something small. Then it grows, gains strength, transforms itself and its surroundings. When ideas become reality, out attention gravitates to them. They lead us to think and discuss their meaning. Even seemingly small projects have the power to transform our perception and thinking.  Those who do not absorb knowledge of new materials and technologies could find themselves side-tracked tomorrow. New materials come, hand in hand, with responsibility to our planet. It commands us to reinvent our consumption and production patterns; it has become the engine of designer’s creativity. How is represented in the projects of Czech and Dutch designers? Where does their respective approach converge and where does it diverge?

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Eric Geboers – Salt pup

The UN considers desertification the greatest threat to our planet. With every minute passed, 23 hectares of fertile soil are swallowed up by the sprawling desert. In a course of a year, we lose 12 million hectares of soil, which has a major baring on farming and the related quality of life of 1.5 billion people. Meanwhile, the global population is reaching the mark of nine billion; according to the UN forecast, we should be there in 2048, which brings along a higher demand for food and a greater risk of arable soil degradation due to over-exploitation. The project is a bio-mimetic experiment of how local resources could be put to use. Saltwater from the sea is pumped to desert areas where it is desalinated with the help of the energy of the sun. The water is then used to grow produce in greenhouses. The good amount of salt left after desalination also needs to be used. The author proposes to add an organic binder from seaweed to the salt, transforming it into building material. The project uses exclusively regionally available resources and natural methods and creates a waste-free ‘closed ecosystem’, which can be scaled-up to whole ‘salt cities’ which would afford better conditions for life.

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Marjan van Aubel – The Energy Collection

The Energy Collection project uses progressive solar technology derived from photosynthesis. Just as chlorophyll can absorb energy from light, some organic dyes have the same capacity. Professor Michael Grätzel invented dye sensitised solar cells. The solar cells do not necessarily need to be mounted on the roof; the author explored the ways they could be used indoors. The result is a seemingly common shelf cabinet and a glass serving set. It does not matter whether we are taking a drink or we have just put the glass on the table, the glass relentlessly accumulates solar energy. Each glass has a photovoltaic layer of fully-integrated solar cells. The cabinet also collects and stores converted solar energy. It is a unique and self-sufficient system which can at the same time store and discharge energy. The cabinet works as an accumulator and the stored energy can be used for many things: charging a mobile phone or powering a lightbulb. The system uses solar energy, a renewable resource, but it also works in artificial lighting conditions.

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Michelle Baggerman – Woven Light

The author of the project has identified new opportunities for traditionally spun silk, and transforms the material into a number of original conceptual products. By exploring contrasts – flexibility and rigidity, transparency and opacity – the author looks for ways how to innovate on the material level – not, as is usual, on the product level. Deployment of PLA, a bioplastic material, to reinforce textile fabric, makes the final product more sustainable than products reinforced with common plastics, glass or carbon fibre. In series of experiments, the author tested plastic reinforcements, various fabrics, shapes, etc., in order to identify optimal conditions for production. The result are three prototypes of lights: bent, plissé and folded. For each prototype, the full width of silk was used, so there were no cut-offs and cuttings – simply no waste. The plastic reinforcements have been 3D printed, which further bolstered the no-waste claim of the whole process of production. The project is informed by the research of Professor Teruo Kimura from the Department of Advanced Fibro-Science at KIT, and was created during a three-month internship at KYOTO Design Lab, Kyoto Institute of Technology.

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Eliška Hlavačková – Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a 100% utilisable natural resource and material. We know it mainly as food, but Hlavačková has taken the pumpkin and turned it into an experiment – she has made it a material of original design. Pumpkin has inspirational qualities. It reacts to humidity in the air – when the humidity is high, the pumpkin is easy to bend; when the air is dry, the pumpkin is hard, fragile and good at holding shape. The brittleness can be eliminated with layering. People also use pumpkin as a natural dye; due to its colour fastness, it is however used only as food colouring. The author explores the inner fibrous structure of the pumpkin – the part of the fruit which is not used in the food industry and goes as waste. De-seeded flesh is pressed and dried, which produces a biodegradable and almost translucent film that can be layered to make rigid and resistant shapes. The flesh can also be moulded, dried and combined to make three-dimensional objects. The visually appealing hue and the structure of the material lends itself well to interior and industrial design.

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Ondřej Trnka – Burnt Thread

The author draws his inspiration from his childhood, when he observed, with fascination, the life of ants and their elaborate structures. In America lives an ant Atta sexdens. Its subterranean colony is the most intricate labyrinth of corridors and chambers where the ant cultivates fungi for food. The underground maze, which was the model for the project, is on average 10m wide and goes 6m deep. In order for the perforation to be visible and have not only an inner but also observable effect, the chosen material had to be sufficiently rigid and stable. The second step was to test the textile fibre which, when coiled, trunked and bound, formed the corridor system. The resulting network also served as concrete reinforcement. After the concrete set, the object was set on fire. The fibre burned out and left internal perforation. There was a whole series of tests with different diameters of the fibre and fire tests. This method created an internally perforated structure with a natural outside texture, which allowed plants and moss to latch onto, so the object acquired a new aesthetic function within its environment.

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Tereza Dvořáková a Hana Němcová – Frusack

Every year, each one of us in the Czech Republic uses 400 plastic bags. On the other hand, plastic bags are the least represented among recycled waste. Frusack is a project created as an alternative to disposable plastic bags we use daily to buy fruit, vegetables or baked goods. Sheer dedication, inter-disciplinary collaboration and innovative materials stand behind the successful development of a unique PLA (bioplastic) fabric with unprecedented qualities – one-of-a-kind achievement which transcends the boundaries of this country. It is resilient, washable, pliable, light and translucent. It is produced locally by a Czech company and sown in sheltered workshops – which makes it a near-local (only the fibre is imported) and socially responsible product. Not only can Frusack be reused – it can also be composted. The colourful sack holds 5 litres and 1.5kg, is machine-washable and, according to the authors, has a lifespan of two years.