Upcycling and Recycling in Milan

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Saved by Droog, images by Stefanie Gratz via Droog
In the weeks building up to the Milan furniture fair there was much talk in the press of the problems of 'overdesign' and questions such as 'does the world really need another chair?' The seemingly endless exhibition halls of the Fiera Milano cover a staggering 345,000 sq m all crammed to the brim with new design. Each stand is constructed within 3 days, is in use for 6 days and then ripped apart and thrown into a skip in just one day. So inevitably, the world's largest furniture fair is synonymous with the creation of an awful lot of waste, something that doesn't sit that comfortably with the current reflective mood of the industry.

Jens Praet (left) and Laborartorio Contraprogetto
With this in mind, manufacturers and designers have increasingly favoured anything that makes use of reused objects, derelict spaces and found materials. We saw this trend for recycling and upcycling everywhere at the fair this year. One of the most interesting and prominent examples was by Dutch brand Droog who hosted an exhibition entitled ‘Saved by Droog’; a collection of 5135 items saved from liquidation sales that had been revived and given a new lease of life through design. Droog invited 14 designers to approach the items as a raw material ready for creative re-interpretation. The results ranged from a roll on scent made from an old salt shaker and a glass ball to a striking collection of 100 containers that had been coated in a bright blue flock. All of the items were exhibited and sold throughout the week.

Elsewhere the trend was demonstrated through the use of recycled materials with emphasis on process. Studio Jens Praet mixed shredded waste paper with resin to produce a collection of hand cast tables and stools whilst Italian design studio Laboratorio Controprogetto used polished strips of reclaimed wood to create a series of beautifully crafted tables and chairs.

The trend even extended to the choice of exhibition space with Ventura Lambrate Design Distric, a former industrial district to the east of the city centre, making it’s debut as a design district. Initiated by a Dutch event company named ‘Organization in Design’, Lambrate promised to bring the focus back to design content rather than commercially driven PR stunts. The district played host to the RCA and Made in Arnhem who were both situated in old factories while Autofficina, a group of six young independent Dutch designers, took over a garage.

Ali Morris