Sustainability was one of the themes at the recent Salone del Mobile, where many designers and brands demonstrated their commitment to energy-saving, recycled materials and social responsibility.
British designer Tom Dixon experimented with sustainable materials, ranging from mushrooms to eelgrass to cork, in his exhibition, TWENTY, which was held during Milan Design Week in early June.
Among the highlights:
Mycelium sculptures and upholstery for the Fat chair
Dixon worked with the U.S company Evocative Design, which provides sustainable alternatives to plastics, to produce molded foam components for the FAT chair made of mycelium, a type of fungi that produces a web of branching threads called hyphae from which mushrooms grow. The mycelium is grown onto the wooden subframe, producing a high performing material alternative to synthetic foams. “Interestingly, the other product produced on the very same production line using the same technique is vegan bacon,” the company noted. “So, what we have here is probably the first edible chair.”
Dixon’s veteran Bird chair made from eelgrass
The Tom Dixon team wanted to see if it could use eelgrass as a substitute to the petrochemical-based materials used in its Bird rocking chair. To create the upgraded version of Bird, Tom Dixon collaborated with the Danish company Søuld, which focuses on eelgrass as a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials. Eelgrass is a renewable sea plant that, according to Søuld, offers excellent acoustic, thermal and moisture-regulating properties and is highly resistant to fire, contains no toxic chemicals and releases extremely low emissions.
The Tom Dixon team is also turning to cork for its sculptural presence, using big solid blocks to make imposing designs including a chaise longue, mirrors and side tables. The dark, textured finish and the process of caramelizing the cork not only delivers a strong aesthetic language but also makes the pieces extremely fragrant, the company noted. The added benefit of a sound dampening material that is a very useful asset in acoustically challenged environments. “But the last asset that has seduced us is the carbon positivity of this wonderful material, which is a result of the nurturing of the Cork Oak forests and the gentle way the cork is removed without killing the tree which gives the material an unusual and much needed attribute.”