The projects presented at Design Week in June could only confirm this: today innovation rests (and is prized) for reasons that are all different from purely aesthetic ones. It does not focus on the extrinsic contents of objects, but on intrinsic, hidden ones; not those displayed, but rather on the design and construction principles by which seemingly “normal” chairs, lamps and sofas are converted into products more respectful of the Earth. In other words, it is measured by their ethical content. The methods by which companies and designers put into practice the principles of sustainability differ widely: this appears in the projects reviewed in this issue, comprising both newly created products and historic pieces brought up to date with less impactful materials and production processes.
New materials for new products
An important line of research concerns materials: the investments of furniture brands range from the use of new recycled and recyclable materials, especially those derived from waste, to their adaptation in internal production processes, with the creation of new supply chains and intersectoral partnerships (like the one between Kartell and illy that has given rise to the Re-Chair, produced with plastic from waste coffee pods). The great challenge in this case is to make post-consumer waste precious resources in reducing the environmental footprint, as well as elements to be enhanced for their unprecedented aesthetic properties.
Production process and approach to design
But a concern for our planet begins even before the production process: it is expressed through the approach to design. For instance by considering the complete dismantling of objects a priority, to ensure that each of their components is easily repairable and recyclable in the most correct way at the end of the product's life cycle. A practice, known as design for disassembly, that some companies have applied not only to the manufacturing of their products, but also to their stands at the Salone del Mobile, designed with a view to circularity.
The result? More restrained and lighter set-ups, built with (few) sustainable materials. But above all, designed to be used several times and last much longer. Because ultimately the main purpose of sustainability is precisely this: to ensure that furniture, an object, an architectural achievement, will have an intrinsic quality enabling it to be used for several generations and perhaps in different ways, adapting to different functions and interpretations. And in this Italian design has much to teach.