Furniture design of aluminium chips with an eye for sustainable innovation
At the Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition 2019 (Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling), a number of Danish designers showcase their innovative and experimental take on the furniture design of the future. The theme of the exhibition revolves around a recycling perspective as far as both ideas and materials are concerned. The motto of the exhibition “Re-think, Re-use, Re-duce” challenges the way we think about furniture design in a reality where circular economy and sustainability become more and more relevant each day.
As guest exhibitors at this year's exhibition, James Stoklund and Sine Ringgaard showcase their pioneering table design 63. By using direct recycling of aluminium chips, they take the idea of circular conscious material use in furniture design to new, sustainable heights.
Aluminium shavings in solid structure
In connection with the sustainable focus of the exhibition, James Stoklund and Sine Ringgaard have used Alumeco’s recycling processes as a starting point. Processing aluminium products, for example via sawing and other metal cutting operations, generates residual waste which, among other things, takes the form of chips.
At Alumeco, these chips are thoroughly sorted by alloy type and pressed together into blocks. The compacted density of the blocks makes it possible to transport larger quantities of material at a time, thereby reducing the energy consumption needed for transport.
After the chips are pressed into blocks, they are sent for remelting. This makes it possible to reuse aluminium, and thus avoid the energy-intensive process of extracting bauxite, as well as subsequent its subsequent refining and electrolysis. In other words, the energy consumption for recycling aluminium is approx. 95% lower compared to when it is extracted from bauxite.
Since the properties of aluminium can be restored after remelting, raw aluminium is particularly well suited to be reused countless times.
The excellent recycling properties of aluminium and its general potential for creating high finish products often make processed aluminium a preferred choice of material in design structures for building facades and other external applications, as well as various furniture and interior designs. However, James Stoklund and Sine Ringgaard also see great potential in the raw chip blocks of residual material:
“The moulded aluminium chips constitute an exciting and unique material that has not really been seen in other design contexts before,” says James Stoklund about the chips material, and continues “At Alumeco, the chips are pressed in order to lower energy consumption in connection with transport before recycling. By using the chips as they are and thereby eliminating the remelting process, an already energy-efficient process is further optimised. It is said that just giving a material one extra life makes a big difference from a sustainable, circular perspective.”
In order to keep the recycling properties of aluminium as optimal as possible, James Stoklund and Sine Ringgaard have chosen to make the table column from 100% pure aluminium so that the material can be reused in the long term.
Sustainable design on the material's own terms
For the two designers, the structure of the chips mix in each block has been a key element because the blocks act as an aesthetic tool, while at the same time, from a sustainability perspective, they tell a story about the circular use and recycling process of the material:
“Because we focus on the blocks 100%, we have used them “as is”. The chips and the chips mix are of different sizes and dimensions, which creates diversity. It makes each block unique, and each and every block has a story to tell,” says James Stoklund, adding that the moulded shavings blocks have helped define the design expression of the table, which is clearly stated in its name: “Throughout the development of 63, we viewed the blocks as the material of our work, so aluminium defined the immediate design, and then we, as designers, had to make it work. Therefore, we have tested how the blocks can be put together and used as a material. We found that by combining the blocks in the same way as when building a brick wall, we can create an aesthetic and durable solution. The blocks are held together by raw aluminium rods, and since all blocks are visible, each and every one speaks for itself. The table is made up of 63 blocks because that was the number needed to shape the structure. The blocks are the most important thing in the design, which is why it became quickly apparent that 63 was the right name for the design.”
The design duo hopes that the experimental use of materials in 63 can contribute to focusing on the fact that future innovation in design with a sustainable perspective can be achieved using as basis materials from places in the circular economy other than those where the material is traditionally used and reused.
You can see 63 at the Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition from 8 November 2019 to 3 May 2020. The Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition 2019 is a recurring event which aims, according to https://www.se-design.dk, to “... develop and exhibit once a year new and experimental types of furniture of high utility, craftsmanship and artistic quality. The association operates as a laboratory for innovation in future furniture types and concepts ”.
About the designers
James Stoklund and Sine Ringgaard met in London, where they studied at the Royal College of Art and the University of Arts London respectively. In addition, James Stoklund is a qualified silversmith, and together the two designers can list in their CVs a large number of reputable companies such as Rosendahl Design Group, Georg Jensen, Schmidt Hammer Lassen, Fritz Hansen and The Times. As guest exhibitors, they have previously showcased the 3-in-1 stool at the Cabinetmakers' Autumn exhibition 2016. 3-in-1 is made, among other things, of black anodized aluminium from Alumeco. With 63, the designers therefore continue their use of materials with a challenging and sustainable twist.
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