From trash to luxury: architects and designers give new life to discarded objects
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A fundamental aspect of a circular economy is the transformation of our way of seeing waste. Labeling an object as “waste” implies devaluing it and ending its role in a traditional linear economy. Even though the object is out of sight, its life continues in the landfill. This change of perspective regarding waste involves opening our minds to the opportunities that the abundance of waste presents. The designers and architects gathered below not only managed to efficiently rescue discarded objects but also increased their added value, giving them new meaning through their careful curation.
The Salvage Chair Series / Jay Sae Jung Oh
In Seattle, South Korean designer and artist Jay Sae Jung Oh took discarded household items and turned them into ornamental leather-covered chairs. The “Salvage Chair” series arose from the desire to highlight throwaway culture.
The genesis of my inspiration lies in the objects that inhabit our everyday lives. Despite living surrounded by so many objects, we often fail to recognize their value and are constantly consumed by the search for new things. -Jay Sae Jung Oh
Their process involves collecting abandoned objects and rearranging them into new shapes, which are then wrapped in leather ropes. Covered in leather, these objects acquire new configurations as they intertwine, resulting in complex pieces that occupy an intermediate space between furniture and sculptures.
The Circus Canteen / Multitude of Sins
In Bangalore, India, interior design studio Multitude of Sins designed a restaurant interior using less than 10% new materials. Commissioned by the arts community at “Bangalore Creative Circus,” this 2,134 square meter project was completed in 2021. Through an unconventional curation process, MOS designed surface coverings, lighting, furniture and art installations virtually entirely from donations of the city, salvage markets and landfills. His design process relied heavily on what was available from the city’s discarded resources, resulting in a distinct diversity of colors and textures.
Entrance arches were constructed from recycled metal and coated in a shade of teal, while chandeliers were expertly crafted from bicycle chains and scrap metal. Reused vehicle headlights were transformed into lamps and the floor was made from discarded exhibition floor samples. A collage of scraps of discarded wallpaper creates an eye-catching backdrop for the food counter.
Kamikatsu Recycling Center / Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Designed by Hiroshi Nakamura and NAP, the Recycling Center challenges our consumption patterns in both its proposal and its appearance. Located in Kamikatzu, Japan, its facade is a composition of 700 windows donated by the local community. Both the interior and exterior of the building are made from a variety of used objects and cedar wood harvested locally.
In an interview with Stirworld, the architects detailed the painstaking process behind their design. They worked closely with the city and volunteers, measuring each of the 700 windows and noting the glass thickness and necessary repairs. These measurements then served as the basis for the project drawings. Although, for most people, the irregularity of the items would be seen as undesirable, the architects chose to embrace this imperfection.
Most of the logs, fittings, furniture and other materials used in this project have irregular shapes. In an economy of mass production and consumption, irregular materials are often considered undesirable and imperfect, as they are difficult to package, transport and control, and ensuring their quality is complicated. Therefore, waste is generated to achieve uniformity, and those that do not meet specifications are discarded. However, we view irregular shapes as a unique feature of objects and value them in their irregularity, believing that this gives Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center great character. – Hiroshi Nakamura
The field of architecture has vast potential to explore new aesthetic directions using discarded materials. By working with what is uneven, dissimilar and aged, new aesthetics can help us reevaluate our relationship with waste and revitalize what has been discarded. This gives architects and designers a new role, not just as creators of new things, but as curators of what already exists.