Transformationen Konzepte der Umnutzung von Dingen Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin Tub-Chair Michael Kapfer
April 29th, 2014 by smow

The best form of recycling is not to produce things in the first place.

However, until every one understands that, things will continue to be produced in senseless quantities, and senseless quantities of things will eventually reach the end of their useful life.

And then?

Largely, though not exclusively, based on projects submitted for the annual Recycling Designpreis, the exhibition “Transformations – Concepts of Re-using Things” currently showing at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge in Berlin presents a collection of objects which not only offer some answers but which also document and explain the differing forms of re-use that can take place and the differing motivations for re-using.

And so, for example, next to objects such as the (garden) bench DIN 1317 crafted by Felix Kaiser and Dirk Wember from old traffic barriers or the Recycling Chair by Bär+Knell, which represent classic maintaining rather than disposing, Transformations also presents re-use as a form of documentation as exemplified by the Schuldenhemd (Debtor’s Shirt) from Swetlana Schmidt, a tunic created from the bank statements of her late, and overdrawn, grandmother; re-use as a form of critique of consumerism as demonstrated by, for example, the trolley suitcase Fusion by Anna Bormann; or re-use through necessity as for example with the repaired stool discovered by Anna Pannekoek and Max Borka in Istanbul or a self-created carpet sweeper fashioned from old tank tracks and found in an abandoned Soviet barrack.

In addition Transformations explores the different types of metamorphism that can take place, for example, public to private, functionless to functional or worthless to valuable, and changes of perceptions and meaning that arise through re-use, for example the transformation of mass produced to unique, standard to customised or industrial to handwork.

As older readers will be well aware, we don’t approve of misappropriating perfectly good objects for new purposes, nor do we like overly arty readymades: fortunately Transformations doesn’t have any, or at least not that many, such objects. Something which helps make it a highly enjoyable exhibition. In addition the objects on show in Transformations, or at least the majority of objects on show, are in essence design objects; they have been created through design processes – only with previously used materials rather than new. Or put another way, the transformation isn’t the objects raison d’etre, the object is.

But perhaps the best thing about Transformations is that it gently reminds us that we really, really need to produce less.

Transformations – Concepts of Re-using Things runs at Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin until Monday May 19th.

Full details can be found at

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Its meant to contrast... A chair repaired by a student at Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Holland
June 10th, 2009 by julius
Platform 21 Repair Manifesto

Platform 21 Repair Manifesto

About a 100 years ago we mentioned Platform 21and their Repair Manifesto.

Inspired by yesterdays rant against designers who find using PET bottles a suitable demonstration of how design can help save the planet, we revisited our previous post on Platform 21 and subsequently their Repair Manifesto

And still love what they are doing. Especially the Repair Hub where you can exchange addresses of skilled craftsmen and women.
If you should be in or near Amsterdam you can drop by and repair whatever you want.

And if not, check out Platform 21 and let yourself be inspired.

It may seem odd that a company who exist through the sale of furniture should encourage people to repair their furniture, but so contradictory is it not.

For why would you invest in piece of furniture, only to throw it out because it is partly damaged or broken?

That would be daft.

And also against the wishes of the designer and the purpose of the design.

A chair such as the new AC 4 by Antonio Citterio from Vitra, for example, is not only made of 51% recycled material but is itself 94% recyclable. As is the case with much of the Vitra seating programme.

Where's the problem? A Vitra Office Chair

Where's the problem? A Vitra Office Chair

Additionally chairs such as the plastic, wire and aluminium series by Charles and Ray Eames are designed and built to be repaired and rebuilt; spare and replacement parts can always be bought and in simple cases exchanged yourself or for detailed work by qualified and insured Vitra contractors. smow are always happy to advise.

Similarly all parts of the USM Haller system can be replaced, exchanged and rebuilt as and if required.

Wooden furniture, for example Thonet chairs or Moormann – well everything really -, can either be invisibly repaired by specialists or creatively by yourself.

Its meant to contrast... A chair repaired by a student at Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Holland

Its meant to contrast... A chair repaired by a student at Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Holland

Even plastic furniture as typified by Kartell is not beyond repair and fixing when things go wrong.

And things can go wrong – a misplaced bottle of red wine, an overenthusiastic child, a police raid at 3 in the morning. We’ve all experienced such moments.

But don’t blame it on your chair, table or sideboard.

It was worth the initial investment … it’s worth repairing.

And you’ll do much more for the environment that those designers with their PET bottle lamps

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Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller, Burg Giebichenstein
June 9th, 2009 by julius

Every month Jasper Morrison sends a photo to the Vitra Magazine. And every month Vitra publish it.

Every month we send a photo to the Vitra magazine. And every month they don’t.
Whereas the good Jaspers photos are always entertaining, this months entry was a lot more thoughtful and thought provoking.

PET Chandalier in Pondicherry, India. Photo: Jasper Morrison

PET Chandalier in Pondicherry, India. Photo: Jasper Morrison

Taken in Indian Pondicherry the photo shows a chandelier made from old PET bottles and Christmas lights. “If this was an exhibit at the Salone del Mobile in Milan I wouldn’t give it a second look” comments Morrison, before adding “but far removed from the temptations of designer dreams in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose.”

We don’t know how often Jasper Morrison was out and about in Milan, but we saw at least two lamps made from recycled bottles in Italy, then a couple in New York and yet another at DMY Berlin (in addition to the re-appearance of one we’d already seen in Milan)

Not only that but in Berlin we also found a lamp made out of broken umbrellas.

Discarded consumer goods as lighting is a current topic in contemporary design.

Pendant Lamp made from umbrellas

Pendant Lamp made from umbrellas

Except of course the materials aren’t discarded; rather, they’ve been used out of context to create the impression of a recycled product and so make a statement about first world consumption.

Only the product themselves automatically become an abuse of the uncontrolled consumption we in the north practice. We just call it “the temptations of designer dreams” in order to justify the unjustifiable.

For everyone who knows how much natural resources and energy goes into making one PET bottle also knows that tying it to another dozen to create a lamp is irresponsible waste.

And those who don’t know, should consult the videos by MSLK or check-out the film Tapped

And so where Morrison focuses on the Pondicherry Chandelier as demonstrating the intrinsic quality of good design, for us the more important message is: Stop pretending your recycling. Please.

If you live and work as an industrial or product designer in Europe you have almost limitless possibilities as regards raw materials and production processes. If you genuinely care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design make sure your materials and production processes reflect that concern and minimise impact.

Or actually use recycled products such as with Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller from Burg Giebichenstein University in Halle.

A PET bottle lamp at DMY Berlin

A PET bottle lamp at DMY Berlin

And if you don’t care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design, then build a chair from asbestos.

When Morrison states “…in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose” he means, and we believe understands, that it is “genuine”. Isn’t created as an artistic exercise by someone with access to libraries, internet, machines and materials in a scale beyond the grasp of most people; rather, by someone who needs to solve a problem, and that with the limited resources that physically lie before him.

There’s a verse in “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys that goes:

Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul

The world doesn’t need designers demonstrating to the the worlds poor how clever one can be with a few old plastic bottles and a bit of electric cable. As the Pondicherry Chandelier beautifully demonstrates, the skills exist, the innovation exists, the understanding exists.

And the unfair global distribution of resources exists.

The world needs designers who improve our situation and who understand that PET bottles are part of the problem and incorporating them into designs doesn’t actually help.

We need fewer PET bottles, not more.

Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller, Burg Giebichenstein

Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller, Burg Giebichenstein

Sustainability and fairness don’t mean puritan abstinence; they can be fun, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. And as far as we’re concerned should be. We positively appeal to the designers of the world to make the future for comfortable and safe; and that for all of us from Tipperary to Pondicherry and from Copenhagen to Harare.

Just don’t pretend your recycling for the benefit of the over-fed and the over-paid. And especially not with PET bottles.

And so thanks to Jasper Morrison for the photo, and more of the same please.

More weak, and potentially unfunny, humour about dogs driving delivery vans tomorrow :)

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