Materials, nature and design: May’s issue looks at the relationship between architecture and its materials, exploring alternatives to concrete and plastic and exploring the theme through the Milan Triennale
Broken Nature is the theme for the Triennale and it is central to the questions around sustainability that the design industry is grappling with. In this month’s issue we find out about exciting new bio materials, buildings that breathe and the artist giving light a physical form. Plus, our preview of Salone and Milan Design Week
A word from Priya Khanchandani, editor of Icon:
It is easy to exoticise materials in design, from the smoothness of marble to shimmering gold, when in reality we barely pay heed to their role in the natural world. This year’s Triennale in Milan, showing until September, is a clarion call for nature’s most basic elements to be paid greater respect, before we realise what we have let slip away.
In one film, we witness the intimate bond between an octopus and an ammonite shell it adopts as its home – a reminder that our habitat is a part of us. A reliquary of objects, from a drop of clean water to a collection of mineral rocks, spotlights the substances we take for granted and projects a future where a drink could become more precious than a diamond.
Creative experiments with new materials, like bricks fabricated from algae-based biomaterials or composites of cornstalk and mushroom mycelium, are a glimmer of hope that humanity doesn’t have to be reliant on substances like plastic and concrete, which are damaging our planet each day.
And a collection of tableware made of food residue like vegetable scraps, eggshells and bones that have been burnt into charcoal, then moulded, shows what can be done with waste in landfills, which is currently decomposing into toxic methane.
Materiality couldn’t be more fundamental to design and architecture. It is at the heart of everything we make and consume. In this issue, we consider why recycling plastic cannot save the planet, how architecture can be more transparent about its composition, and put forward concrete as a crime against the environment. We also talk to designers Studio Ossidiana and Jordan Söderberg Mills, whose work conveys a strong focus on materials.
As we warm up for the biggest design week of the year, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, it couldn’t be a better moment to be soberly reminded that nature is broken, and that design can either contribute to humanity’s squandering of natural resources or play a part in strengthening our bonds with the material world.