BIG designs all-wood cubic structure as “living curriculum” at University of Kansas

BIG KU mass timber cube

Danish architecture studio BIG, alongside faculty at the University of Kansas, has unveiled its design for the mass-timber Makers’ KUbe in Kansas, USA.

The structure will serve as an educational building for the University of Kansas (KU) School of Architecture & Design in Lawrence, Kansas. BIG‘s design was chosen as part of an open call, based on the “needs and wishes” of the students and faculty.

The 50,000-square-foot educational building will have a diagrid structure made completely from wood, a feat achieved through the use of notched glued laminated timber (glulam) and dowels based on traditional Japanese joinery techniques to eliminate the need for steel fasteners or plates.

BIG KU mass timber cube
BIG’s Makers’ KUbe will be located in a square among buildings at the University of Kansas

“Our design for the consolidated design studios at KU seeks to deploy all aspects of the profession in three distinct interventions: preservation, adaptation and new construction,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.

“The Makers’ KUbe is conceived as a showcase in timber tectonics, traditional joinery, robotic manufacturing and sustainable materials.”

The building will have six storeys and be placed in a plaza surrounded by pre-existing structures, with bridges on its second level connecting it on two sides to the adjacent Chalmers and Marvin Halls.

BIG KU mass timber cube
It will have an all wood structure

It will have chamfered edges on all of the corners, creating entrance canopies on the ground floor and terraces up top. The facade will be completely clad in glass, with some of the panels open to the inside, and the others revealing the building’s insulation like “shadowboxes”.

“The timber bones of the building are exposed by stripping away all applied finishes – elevating structure to expression,” said Ingels.

“The building serves as a living curriculum, revealing all function, technology and structure as tangible elements for the students to appreciate and critique – learning solidified into built form.”

Inside, the building will feature exposed wood beams and panels, with a staircase that circles around the core. Around the staircase, at three points along its ascent, will be double-height spaces.

According to the studio, the core size was minimised by using a self-supporting, fire-resistant egress to expand the floor plates – the diagonal mass timber columns that make up the diagrid structure will aid in the load-bearing.

“A fire-resistant egress feature staircase spirals up the building, encouraging spontaneous moments of creative interaction and maximizing available floor space,” said the studio, adding “All interior materials are recyclable.”

BIG KU mass timber cube
A staircase will spiral throughout the building through double-height spaces

BIG will include photovoltaic panels on the roof and incorporate a rainwater-gathering system. The architecture studio will work with executive architect BNIM and structural engineer StructureCraft on the project.

BIG is also working on another mass-timber university building at John Hopkins in Maryland. The studio has also been working with 3D-printing construction company ICON to create a variety of projects in Texas.

The imagery is courtesy of BIG.

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Chris Pratt's destruction of Ellwood house in LA symptom of “systemic problems”

Zimmerman House by Craig Ellwood

Unprotected modernist houses are at risk of demolition as land often holds greater value than architectural heritage, says Docomomo US in response to actor Chris Pratt tearing down a home by architect Craig Ellwood.

Pratt and his wife Katherine Schwarzenegger drew attention online when news broke that the couple had begun work on a 15,000-square-foot home in place of the Zimmerman House by architect Ellwood, who designed buildings in Los Angeles from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s.

Located in the Brentwood area, across the street from a house owned by Schwarzenegger’s mother, the Zimmerman House was completed in 1950 and was one of Ellwood’s earliest projects.

It was demolished by Pratt and Schwarzenegger, who wanted to make use of the land for a sprawling mansion.

Docomomo US executive director Liz Waytkus claims the demolition of the mid-century home is part of a wider issue of sought-after land and location taking priority over the significance of historic homes.

“The problem is systemic,” she told Dezeen. “Older mid-century homes are smaller and underbuilt for their plots of land.”

“The land has become more valuable than the house, and even if people understand the value of such a home, location and land value often trump architectural significance.”

Interior of the Zimmerman House by Craig Ellwood
A mid-century house by Craig Ellwood was destroyed to make way for a mansion

The Zimmerman House was a one-storey home with original landscaping by Garrett Eckbo, which was also destroyed in the demolition.

The house was sold to Pratt at the end of last year. In a video taken at the home’s estate sale in 2020, which was recently shared on Tiktok, its structure and original fixtures appeared to be in good condition.

Waytkus likened the Zimmerman House demolition to the loss of the Geller I house in Long Island by modernist architect Marcel Breuer, which was torn down in January 2022.

She stressed that Docomomo US works to educate people on the history of homes like these, striving for the best outcomes for historic homes without treading on individual private property rights.

The group is currently working with the Southampton Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation on the protection of five homes in Southampton, Long Island, including a 1979 house designed by architect Norman Jaffe, which the original owner plans to demolish.

Waytkus expressed that conversations with property owners are important to protect the legacy of historic homes and at the very least, have them properly documented.

“We are reasonable people and would have appreciated the property owners having a conversation with community leaders such as Docomomo US/SoCal and the Los Angeles Conservancy in [the Zimmerman House] case, before pulling the demolition permit,” Waytkus said.

“At a minimum, some elements could have been retained or reused and the property should have been documented.”

“The homeowners also could have avoided this negative publicity by extending the opportunity for communication and collaboration with our community,” she added. “We are always open to having those conversations.”

Non-profit preservation group Los Angeles Conservancy flagged the planned demolition of the Zimmerman House in January, but no protections were made.

In 2022, Waytkus wrote that the demolition of Breuer’s Geller I house should be a wake-up call to protect modern buildings, which was followed up by Docomomo’s selection of 11 significant 20th-century buildings at risk of demolition in the US.

The photography is by Julius Shulman via Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

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Foster + Partners designs tiered Park Avenue supertall skyscraper

350 Park

UK architecture studio Foster + Partners has designed a tiered, 62-storey supertall skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York.

Located at 350 Park, the supertall skyscraper will rise approximately 1,600 feet high (487 metres), holding office spaces and a public plaza at ground level.

A skyscraper at night
Foster + Partners has designed a tiered skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan

Renderings show a tiered tower made up of rectangular volumes that increase in height across the tower’s width, with the tallest sitting at 62 storeys. A terrace sits on top of each level, while the tower rests on a double-height base supported by pillars.

“The tower will feature floor-to-ceiling glass, landscaped terraces, and a stepped configuration to create an iconic, distinctive skyscraper,” said the team.

The public plaza underneath will contain green space, seating areas, art displays and “opportunities for local businesses”.

White, stone-clad columns will line the street-level space, and reach upwards between the glass panelling to separate each of the building’s rectangular volumes into divided units on the facade.

The building will include a “high-performance building envelope” and use “resilient materials” as sustainable design strategies.

Developed by Ken Griffin, Vornado Realty Trust and Rudin, the 1.8 million square foot (167,225 square metres) project will “energize Midtown Manhattan” according to New York City mayor Eric Adams.

“Home to more than 6,000 jobs, this project will build on our continued efforts to energize Midtown Manhattan as the world’s most important business address and an economic engine for working-class New Yorkers,” said Adams.

The global investment firm Citadel is set to occupy 850,000 square feet (78,967 square metres) as “anchor” tenants.

Ground level lobby with columns
It will host office spaces as well as a large public plaza

The project is part of a wider initiative by Mayor Adams to “imagine Fifth Avenue as a more appealing district for residents, workers, and visitors,” said the team.

It is set to begin the city’s public review process in early 2025.

It is the newest in the studio’s additions to the storied New York City avenue. Foster + Partners is currently working on a JPMorgan Chase headquarters at 270 Park Avenue – which can be seen in the background of renderings of 350 Park – and completed a 47-storey tower at 425 Park Avenue in 2022.

The images are by Foster + Partners. 

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Cadence’s Exquisite Branding & Packaging Design

Cadence’s Exquisite Branding & Packaging Design

abduzeedo0422—24

Dive into Cadence™’s world where luxury hydration meets stunning branding and packaging design, by the creative experts at addressarts.

In the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, a new brand rises, redefining the luxury hydration market. Cadence™, a brainchild of Ross MacKay and George Heaton, breathes life into the fusion of high performance and majestic living. This 2024 launch is a testament to the founders’ vision of translating athletic excellence into an elevated product experience.

Crafting a Visual Symphony

The challenge was formidable: to design an identity and branding that would be the beacon of luxury in a saturated market. The team at addressarts rose to the occasion, creating a brand identity that mirrors the product’s sophisticated science and the serene congruence of mind and body.

“Where precision meets art.” Cadence™ stands as a hallmark of design prowess. The brand’s typography, centered around the fluid logo, is a dance of elegance and adaptability. This is a brand that speaks in the language of daily routines and peak performance, all while championing focus and productivity.

The chosen typeface for the logo, Exposure by 205TF, exudes a sense of establishment, with connected edges that whisper the tranquility of water’s flow. Editorial New and Neue Montreal, sourced from PangramPangram, round out the brand’s typographic voice, delivering messages in harmonious clarity.

The Art of Realistic Imagery

Embracing CGI and renders, addressarts has pushed the boundaries of traditional design workflows. The result is a tactile visualization of the brand — imagining the cool touch of a Cadence™ can, the sight of it resting on a work desk, or accompanying a morning run.

“Envisioning the tactile sensation of premium hydration.” This meticulous process birthed not only a packaging design but a sensory prelude to the product itself.

Cadence™ now strides confidently into the future, its branding and identity presence as potent as the drink within its sleek cans. It’s an identity that grows alongside the brand, promising to keep pace with Cadence™ as it sets new industry benchmarks. As addressarts eagerly anticipates what’s on the horizon, one thing is certain: Cadence™ is poised to quench the thirst of the discerning, one can at a time.

Cadence™ packaging design is bold yet minimal at the same time. Despite the size and boldness of the logo, the can design looks clean and minimal. Black and white palette dominance allows for the fresh and pure feel, which perfectly aligns with the product’s all natural formula. Looking at the can, we can feel the science-backed ingredients blend without getting bored or overwhelmed.

Branding and visual identity artifacts

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For more information make sure to check out addressarts.com

UniFor presents new Andromeda furniture collection on Dezeen Showroom

Andromeda coffee tables by LSM for UniFor

Dezeen Showroom: in tandem with its release at Milan design week 2024, Italian design brand UniFor has listed its distinctive Andromeda furniture collection on Dezeen Showroom.

The Andromeda series comprises a credenza, tables, sofas and coffee tables, all of which were designed in collaboration with international architecture and design studio LSM.

Andromeda credenza by LSM for UniFor
The Andromeda collection’s credenza has a refined appearance

The Andromeda credenza has a stately, broad appearance with centrally-placed solid-fronted cupboards flanked by open shelving.

It comes in two sizes and, similarly to the rest of the collection, comes in a spectrum of materials and finishes to compliment its streamlined aluminium frame.

Andromeda tables by LSM for UniFor
Angular edges define the Andromeda tables

Tables are also included in the Andromeda series, and take the form of a smaller table with two legs and a larger one with three, which have a highly-polished, eye-catching aluminium materiality.

Either table can be crowned with a tabletop made from glass, travertine, concrete or walnut wood, among other materials.

Andromeda sofas by LSM for UniFor
Andromeda sofas come in two shapes

A duo of modular sofas also have their place in the collection, comprising either linear or gently curved segments.

Neutral-coloured leather upholsters the seats and backrests, while a sweeping aluminium base supports each section.

Andromeda coffee tables by LSM for UniFor
Andromeda coffee tables have a distilled, minimalistic appearance

The Andromeda coffee tables offer seven different sizes and two tabletop shapes – elliptical or round – and continue the collection’s striking use of materials and proportions.

Natural materials like travertine, leather and wood can be specified for the tabletop, as well as glass or concrete-effect slabs.

Andromeda coffee tables by LSM for UniFor
Various materials can be specified for the tabletop

UniFor is an Italian brand that was founded in 1969 and specialises in the design and manufacture of furniture.

The company frequently collaborates with international architects and designers to create furnishings that have an emphasis on refined materials and precise manufacturing techniques.

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Dezeen Showroom offers an affordable space for brands to launch new products and showcase their designers and projects to Dezeen’s huge global audience. For more details email showroom@dezeen.com.

Dezeen Showroom is an example of partnership content on Dezeen. Find out more about partnership content here.

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Mmcité on a “cultural mission” to make cities more beautiful through public furniture

Promotion: Czech brand Mmcité has been creating urban furniture for 30 years but continues to adapt to the “constantly evolving” needs of public space, says founder and creative director David Karásek.

Mmcité‘s benches, bins, bike racks and bus shelters can be found in 40 countries around the world, from Mont Blanc to the Dubai Water Canal and Google’s global headquarters in California.

It is known for durable yet aesthetically pleasing products developed in collaboration with Czech and overseas designers. The output is as varied as it is prolific, with everything coming out of its design studio in the town of Uherské Hradiště in the south-east of the Czech Republic, close to the Slovakian border.

Mmcité street furniture in Poland
Mmcité’s street furniture is now in 40 countries

Through its contributions to public space, the brand sees itself as a leading producer of high-quality design accessible to everyone.

“For Mmcité this is nothing short of a cultural mission,” explained Karásek. “We highly value our cities, so we are always pushing to make them more beautiful.”

“Public spaces in a city are fascinating places where people and history meet,” he told Dezeen. “I am proud that we focus Mmcité design right here – we can influence everybody’s taste, and we love that.”

Mmcité founder and creative director David Karásek
David Karásek founded the brand in 1994 and remains creative director

Street furniture is sometimes regarded as an under-appreciated design discipline, but Karásek believes the best examples deliberately avoid drawing attention to themselves.

“Yes, street furniture can be overlooked, and I partly think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It means it doesn’t disrupt the given place, it is not too loud. Instead, it fits in and complements the surrounding architecture.”

Balancing high aesthetic standards with all the requirements of street furniture – such as durability, affordability, sustainability and inclusivity – is a tall order.

Bus shelter by Mmcité
The company designs from its studio in Uherské Hradiště

As a result, Mmcité sometimes spends years developing its products – some of which never see the light of day.

“We develop products honestly, and they must always meet all essential parameters,” said Karásek.

“Well-designed street furniture can be compared to well-designed architecture,” he added. “Functional buildings bring us joy in their use – thoughtful layout and aesthetics influence our daily lives and our senses.”

“The same principles are applied in our field to urban furniture and public spaces.”

Morse seating from Mmcité
Seating collection Morse is among the brand’s recent launches

Mmcité’s most recently launched products are the Morse seating collection, designed by Belgian design practice Studio Segers, and the UFO public shelter, designed in-house. They join the Typo 3D-printed concrete planters among the brand’s recent releases. The Morse and UFO designs recently scooped Red Dot Awards.

Taking its name from the dot-dash communication method, Morse consists of round or stadium-shaped seats positioned along a single linear bar.

Customisable and available in a range of materials, it is intended for use indoors or out, such as in parks, on riverbanks or in airport terminals.

Mmcité's Morse seating
Its design is informed by morse code

UFO is an alternative to umbrella-based shelters that rely on a central mast. Its sturdy steel frame is topped by a fabric dome stretched over laminate rods.

An optional levitating circular platform turns the UFO into a daybed, which the brand said is a response to an increasing trend for people seeking undisturbed relaxation in public spaces.

Shifting demands of public spaces require Mmcité to continue to innovate after three decades of designing urban furniture, Karásek explained.

UFO shelter by Mmcité
The UFO offers an alternative to more conventional umbralla-shaped public shelters

“Like every area of our lives, public space is constantly evolving,” he said. “Private merges with public. There are also elements appearing that were not there before and stem from our life needs.”

“These can be smart elements for charging our mobile devices, green roofs that, among other things, reduce dustiness in cities, or inclusive elements.”

One key change is the move away from car-centric urban design in some cities around the world, said Karásek.

Woman sitting under UFO shelter by Mmcité
The demands on public space are changing, according to Karásek

“Mobility in cities is changing, and in some markets, we see a tendency to remove cars from metropolitan public spaces,” he noted.

“In other markets, so-called 15-minute cities are emerging, addressing people’s needs within walking distance. Thanks to having everything within reach, city life is much better, and our products must respond to this.”

For Mmcité, Karásek explained, innovating in response to these wider factors is “we are not talking about any revolution but about continuous evolution”.

Two types of UFO shelters from Mmcité
Keeping up with changing trends is “about continuous evolution”

Despite a string of accolades to its name over the years, including Good Design, Red Dot, IF Design, EDIDA, and Czech Grand Design awards, Karásek is most proud when Mmcité’s products continue to be used by the public over long periods of time.

“They function in public spaces for 20 years and are still a full part of it,” he said.

“Sometimes we can see them seemingly destroyed, for example, tagged, which gives them a patina but at the same time, they are fully functional. So, we are delighted with thousands of products and projects worldwide.”

For more information on Mmcité, visit its website here.

Partnership content

This article was written by Dezeen for Mmcité as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.

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Encanto upholstery fabric by Skopos Fabrics

Encanto upholstery fabric by Skopos Fabrics

Dezeen Showroom: British brand Skopos has created a range of fabric upholstery named Encanto, designed to add pops of colour and texture to a range of commercial spaces.

Made from soil- and stain-resistant polyester, it aims to be a stylish upholstery option that performs well in high-traffic areas, including office, education, care, high-end hospitality and cruise ship interiors.

Encanto upholstery fabric by Skopos Fabrics
Encanto comes in three pattern designs

Encanto is available in three designs that come in a range of colourful and neutral tones, including a subtle fractured herringbone pattern called Onda.

Loco is a small-scale check pattern and the plain textured design is named Cuba.

Encanto upholstery fabric by Skopos Fabrics
It was designed for a range of commercial spaces

“The three designs offer amazing performance without compromising on style,” said Skopos Fabrics. “The choice within the collection is designed to compliment a range of different interior schemes.”

According to Skopos Fabrics, Encanto is halogen-free, made with a flame-retardant backing and offers antimicrobial protection.


Product details:

Product: Encanto
Brand: Skopos Fabrics
Contact: sales@skopos.co.uk

Material: polyester
Colours/finishes: available in textured plain, fractured herringbone and small check

Dezeen Showroom

Dezeen Showroom offers an affordable space for brands to launch new products and showcase their designers and projects to Dezeen’s huge global audience. For more details email showroom@dezeen.com.

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OFIS Arhitekti clads geometric home in Slovenia with red-brick tiles

Frame house by OFIS Arhitekti

Slovenian studio OFIS Arhitekti has completed Frame House, a family home in Ljubljana clad in red-brick tiles that play on the area’s pitched-roof buildings.

Frame House is located in the city’s suburbs and designed by OFIS Arhitekti with a footprint of 200 square metres so as not to intrude on the site’s large rear garden.

Exterior courtyard within Frame house in Slovenia
A large canopy with pitched sides shelters an entrance patio

The home has a geometric form, fronted by a large canopy with pitched sides. This shelters a paved entrance patio intended as a place for the client’s children to play.

OFIS Arhitekti placed a hole in the canopy to provide an existing tree with light and space to grow.

Facade view of Frame house in Ljubljana
Perforated metal screens and large windows animate the exterior

“As the client loves gardening the idea was to place the house in a way that keeps the back garden as large as possible,” OFIS Arhitekti co-founder Rok Oman told Dezeen.

“Therefore the back of the house is flat and simple, while the entrance yard provides sufficient space for cars and is partly covered with a canopy also creates space for kids to play,” he added.

Exterior view of family home by OFIS Arhitekti
The home is clad in red-brick tiles typically used on roofs

Frame House’s cut-out on the front elevation contains the entrance and access to a single-storey storage area, both clad in blackened timber.

Inside, OFIS Arhitekti has created a ground-floor living, dining and kitchen space with views of the garden through large sliding glass doors that open onto a stone-paved terrace.

On the home’s northwestern side, the kitchen is lined by full-height windows and perforated metal screens to provide greater privacy.

Three bedrooms are located on the first floor, which leads onto a rooftop terrace to the north. This is sheltered by a sloping parapet created by the canopy at the front of the home.

Kitchen and dining interior within family home by OFIS Arhitekti
The ground floor living spaces frame views of the garden

Frame House’s exterior is deliberately simple, clad entirely in red-brick tiles typically used on roofs, with areas of perforation made to offer glimpses into and out of the interiors.

“Red brick is traditional material for the pitched 45 degrees-roof residential houses that mostly surrounds the area,” said Oman.

“However the main volume of Frame House has a flat roof so in a way the red-brick envelope creates a sort of play with the idea of a traditional red-brick pitched roof,” he added.

Living space within Frame house by OFIS Arhitekti
Concrete and wooden surfaces line the interior

Inside, this reddish-brown exterior is contrasted by exposed concrete walls and ceilings and pale wooden floors, chosen to create “cosy and comfy” spaces that provide a minimal backdrop to the garden.

OFIS Arhiteki is led by Oman and Spela Videcnik. Previous projects by the studio include a glazed star-gazing retreat in Andalusia and a prototype house built from adaptable modules.

The photography is by Tomaz Gregoric.

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Is a plastic-free future possible?

Photo of plastic collected during a community cleanup and sorted by colour.

With Earth Day 2024 and an increasing number of environmental campaigners calling for an end to plastics, is time finally up for the 20th century’s miracle material? Rima Sabina Aouf finds out if we can – and should – abolish plastic.

Earth Day 2024 has the theme of “Planet vs Plastics”, campaigning for “the end” of the material starting with a 60 per cent reduction in plastic production by 2040 and ultimately building to a “plastic-free future”.

“Better to incinerate plastic than recycle it”

The proposal is indicative of a broader escalation in the rhetoric around plastic.

In the face of mounting evidence of dangers to the health of people and planet, and with lobbying efforts ramping up as United Nations member states work towards a draft of a global plastics treaty by the end of this year, more abolitionist voices are emerging, and even clashing with campaigners for circularity.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of advocacy group A Plastic Planet and alternative materials database PlasticFree, is among those who believe we should put an end to plastics – recycling and all.

“It is better to incinerate the plastic – safely – than it is to perpetuate its toxic existence by recycling it,” Sutherland told Dezeen.

Photo of a large pile of plastic bottles and cans at a recycling facility in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic
Evidence about the harmful health and environmental impacts of plastic is growing. Photo by Elbert Lora via Unsplash. Top photo by Jas Min via Unsplash

“We need to take plastic out of our system wherever possible. And if we burn it, despite the fact we are simply burning fossil fuels that were momentarily a bottle or plastic bag, we are taking it out of the system.”

She points out that at the current rate, global plastic production is forecast to increase threefold by 2060, and that the reality is that little of it is recycled – around 5 per cent in the US and less than 10 per cent in the UK.

She also backs a recent report from the Center for Climate Integrity, which claimed that the plastics industry has spread disinformation about the efficacy of recycling as a sales tactic in the same way that oil companies have more famously obscured the climate impacts of fossil fuel.

“Recycling is the fig leaf of consumption,” added Sutherland. “Makes us feel better but never actually fixes the problem. It simply prolongs it.”

“We have mostly stopped material innovation”

Plastic-abolitionists like Sutherland argue that only binding phase-out commitments will channel investment into developing viable alternative materials.

“The answer to the ‘is it possible’ is this: for the last 50 years we have mostly stopped material innovation, because we had this miracle called plastic,” said Sutherland. “It has become the default for almost everything – products, packaging, building materials, textiles.”

Labelling plastic a “toxic, indestructible material”, she adds that a ban would create “a vacuum that innovation will quickly fill with better, safer, nature-compatible materials”.

“The odds are against all innovation whilst we still swallow the myth that recycling plastic is (a) happening and (b) the answer,” said Sutherland.

Relevant technologies are beginning to emerge. Bio-based and biodegradable solutions made from crop waste, vegetables, mushroom mycelium, bacteria-forged cellulose and algae seek to emulate the light and pliable qualities that make plastic so integral to modern life.

Photo of an potato-based alternative to single-use plastic by Great Wrap
Australian company Great Wrap created a compostable bioplastic alternative to clingfilm made from waste potatoes. Photo by Shelley Horan

Some designers are making do with what’s already available. Richard Hutten, who at the 2019 Dezeen Day conference described plastic as “the cancer of our planet” and recycling as “bullshit”, has managed to design almost entirely without plastic for years.

“Almost”, because plastics – polymer-based materials usually derived from petroleum or natural gas – are so ubiquitous they’re in products we don’t even think about.

“The only plastic I’ve been using is paint on steel,” Hutten told Dezeen. “It is almost impossible to avoid plastic completely.”

In recent years he has made a barstool for British manufacturer Modus from cork and redesigned mid-century classics by Wim Rietveld with a mix of biodegradable latex and coconut hair in place of plastic foam.

“Plastic is not bad, it’s just completely overused”

But for other environmental advocates, the idea of eliminating plastic misses the real problem: that most of the world today does not value the recovery of materials, of any type.

We may be able to replace every variety of plastic in time, but as long as we live with overconsumption and disposability we will continue to deplete the planet’s resources, they argue.

“Plastic is not bad,” Thomas Matthews partner and sustainability expert Sophie Thomas told Dezeen. “It’s just completely overused, and we don’t have the proper infrastructure to get it back in the system.”

She points out that from its beginnings in the 1950s, plastic has been sold to consumers as a throw-away luxury that represented progress after the sacrifices of the second world war, when countries including the UK had strict salvage campaigns to collect household waste for reuse to make weaponry and counter slowdowns in imports.

Photo of Wim Rietveld's 1401 chairs for Gispen, redesigned by Richard Hutten to have a mix of natural latex and coconut hair cushioning instead of plastic foam
Hutten redesigned Wim Rietveld’s 1401 chairs to have a mix of natural latex and coconut hair cushioning instead of plastic foam. Photo courtesy of Gispen

“Every material had to be given back – bones, paper, string – everything had to go into the war effort,” Thomas said. “So now this plastic comes along and it’s like, don’t worry about it. Use it once, throw it away.”

“This is the kind of positive, clean, quick, cheap, colourful future that we wanted to bring in after the war.”

Instead of changing those patterns of use, Thomas sees brands and manufacturers rushing to replace plastics in the name of sustainability, sometimes with alternatives that have a worse environmental impact.

One example is substituting plastic takeaway containers with paper, usually with a plastic lining that can’t be separated, making both materials unrecyclable.

By contrast, PET and especially HDPE – two commonly used packaging plastics – are the easiest to recycle, when not fused to other materials.

“Complexity is the worst thing for recycling,” said Thomas. “Monomaterial is the way we should go – bio-monomaterials especially.”

Not all plastics are the same, and Thomas does advocate for banning some of them, such as PVC – widely used in construction – and polyurethane foam.

Both, she says, are difficult to recycle and full of “nasty” volatile organic compounds.

Design studio Layer recently developed the Mazzu Open mattress, which swaps out polyurethane foam for less toxic and more recyclable polyester-wrapped springs.

“Polyester is incredibly durable and has a long life – and it’s this quality that makes it a useful material in design, as designing for longevity is one of the most powerful tools we have in terms of sustainability,” Layer founder Benjamin Hubert told Dezeen.

“Foam has a much shorter lifespan before it loses its functionality, and – unlike polyester – is not recyclable. The trade-off for us here is really clear.”

“All recycled plastic ends up as waste”

Much of the debate around abolishing plastics comes down to recycling.

While glass or aluminium can be recycled infinitely without degrading, the molecular structure of plastics gets weakened every time they go through the extrusion process until they can’t feasibly be used any further. For single-use plastics, in particular, that means a very short lifespan.

For abolitionists, the compromised quality of recycled plastic makes it misleading to label the process “recycling” at all – hence Hutten’s “bullshit” claim.

“In the most optimistic view, you could call recycling of plastic down-cycling,” he said. “Eventually, all recycled plastic ends up as waste.”

“It will never be a financially and materially viable solution,” added Sutherland. “There is no economic model that makes sense – or to be honest Coca-Cola would have built the system years ago to recycle their 120 billion bottles every year.”

Those who think there is still a place for plastic advocate for longer-life products within a system where collection and recycling can be guaranteed.

Photo of the Mazzu Open mattress showing individual polyester-covered springs by design studio Layer
Layer’s Mazzu Open mattress replaces polyurethane foam with polyester-covered springs. Photo courtesy of Layer

Recycled-plastic design brands such as Circuform and Smile Plastics call their furniture and sheet material circular as they can be recycled repeatedly – four times at a minimum, according to Circuform.

PearsonLloyd co-founder Luke Pearson, who focuses on circularity, agrees that plastic can be “mostly circular” if designed “intelligently”.

By avoiding additives such as glass fibre, limiting colour, and adding a small amount of virgin plastic when needed for strength, existing material can be kept in the system for a very long time, he says.

As for chemical recycling – the expensive, hazardous and energy-intensive new technology that breaks down plastic to its basic building blocks so it can be remade with its original strength – Thomas believes it could one day serve as a final step to close the loop on plastic, after mechanical recycling options have been exhausted.

“We have to develop the infrastructure for plastic where you actually get that closed loop, otherwise you will have to go for a complete ban of the material,” said Thomas.

“And then what? We’d have to plant huge amounts of trees if we’re going to substitute with paper or any crop-based biomaterials.”

“There really is no time”

Plastic-abolitionists and circularity advocates agree on a number of points: we need legal restrictions on single-use and toxic plastics, we need funding for biomaterials, and we need to change habits.

The upcoming UN plastics treaty provides an opportunity to realise these proposals. But while some sense momentum towards positive change, longtime plastic abstainer Hutten admits that he has lost some of his optimism.

Recently, he created his first plastic piece in years: a one-off cupboard called Atlas, named after the Titan in Greek mythology who carried the world on his shoulders.

Photo of the Atlas cupboard by Richard Hutten
Hutten’s Atlas cupboard is a reflection of the designer’s waning optimism. Photo courtesy of Hutten

In his “reversed Atlas”, a comment on the futility of design in tackling the pollution crisis, the Earth is depicted as collapsing under the weight of humankind.

Sutherland, meanwhile, is in high gear trying to get provisions such as cuts to production volumes of plastics, bans on single-use items and mandated chemical testing into the UN treaty.

“We need to leapfrog the ‘less bad’ to ‘regeneratively good’ in all materials and systems now,” said Sutherland. “There really is no time for any other approach.”

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Tesla recalls Cybertrucks after reports of faulty pedals causing unwanted acceleration

Tesla Cybertruck recalled

Car company Tesla has issued a recall of nearly all Cybertrucks sold to date, following reports of its accelerator pad becoming stuck at “full throttle”.

The recall applies to 3,878 vehicles produced between 13 November and 4 April, when Tesla started utilising soap as a lubricant to aid assembly in an “unapproved change” to the manufacturing process, according to a report from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

In at least two reported cases, residues of this lubricant caused the accelerator pad to detach from its pedal and become trapped in the car’s interior trim, causing unwanted acceleration.

“It held the accelerator down 100 per cent at full throttle,” one driver describes in a video that seems to demonstrate the issue.

This can “increase the risk of a collision” according to the NHTSA, although a fallback mechanism built into the car ensures that its break can override the accelerator and bring the car to a stop.

No reported crashes

So far, Tesla says it has not received any reports of accidents, injuries or deaths caused by the issue.

Cybertruck deliveries were temporarily paused at the beginning of April due to the fault but have now resumed with a new accelerator pedal.

Owners of the 3,878 Cybertrucks affected by the recall – which, according to TechCrunch, is nearly all of them sold to date – will have to bring their cars into a service centre for a free repair.

Tesla’s Cybertruck has been marred in controversy since the concept was first unveiled in 2019, with critics decrying it as “ridiculous” and “dystopian”.

Since deliveries started last December, some owners have also complained of rust and a lack of pinch sensors in the doors, which could lead to injuries.

At the end of last year, Tesla also had to issue a recall on most of its other vehicles due to problems with its Autopilot system, which have since been resolved via a software update.

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