ross mcleod


In an attempt to reconcile ecological issues with the fashion based desires of popular culture, the eco chic project challenged students to engage with issues of sustainability in a vital and progressive way. How does a designer embrace the ecological concerns of this age while still designing furniture that has beauty and clear functional intent? In short, how can design make common sense desirable?

The project asked students too explore the issues surrounding sustainable practices as well as source materials and processes from which to design and construct a piece of furniture. The creative use of these materials called for an in depth engagement with both the environmental implications of their use and their inherent beauty. In many cases, the use of eco friendly materials also required the development of new and appropriate aesthetics that matched the materials properties.

Initially the students were asked to research and source examples of renewable, recyclable and reusable materials. However the research had to go beyond a google search. Students had too not only find out about the material but had to acquire a quantity of the material with which to experiment. The studio group was viewed as a co-op which developed a vital database of eco friendly materials and which shared resources and contacts.

Having found, collected or bought the materials, the students began to explore their properties, potentials and limitations. Experiments to test out forming, shaping, machining, weaving, joining, connection and finishing techniques were enacted. This stage was vital in the development of a craft approach towards the material, an approach that, unfortunately, is being undervalued within the instant gratification of computer modeling, rendering and presentation techniques at hand to designers today.

Each student developed their material studies into a beautifully crafted and detailed piece of furniture in which they had an intimate understanding of the pieces ecological and cultural consequences.

The works included:

- a domestic storage unit made from discarded cigar boxes
- a range of pieces made from aluminum printing plates
- a stool made from bamboo umbrellas
- a chair, table and light made from discarded car parts
- light fittings made from Sprite bottles
- a table system made from pine stud off-cuts.

Ultimately the studio worked to jolt students from there detachment with the physical world and confronted them with the potentials of the realities of material culture.