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Why Materials Matter

Seetal introduces the book without mentions of words like “sustainable” or “innovative”. Instead she chooses to go with “responsible”.

Billie van Katwijk’s Ventri

The first section – Everyday – looks into materials prevalent in our daily lives, hiding in plain sight.

Jade Ruijzenaar’s Glaze Crangon crangon

Some projects introduced materials that most of us probably don’t even register as material.

Studio Marlène Huissoud’s Coccons

The Science section hosts an array of ‘dark’ materials – like Studio Marlène Huissoud’s vessels made from insects.

Basse Stittgen’s Blood Related

This project explores the possibilities of blood as a material. The objects made from it interplay between the strong symbolic meaning of blood and its physicality.

FUNDAMENTALS at Dutch Invertuals

45 Invertuals reveal more than 800 objects that normally remain hidden in the archives of their studios. They offer a glimpse into their private collections, resulting in a distinct reflection of their personal identities.

Meerman`s Aera Fabrica

The technique Aera Fabrica is a combination of blow moulding, glass blowing and 3D printing.

Space 10`s The Algae Dome

The Algae Dome is designed to spark conversations about how we might grow large amounts of nutritious food in cities, reduce our impact on the planet, and use biology to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

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Lab 22 Feb 2019

Looking Beyond: Seetal Solanki’s “Why Materials Matter” is a manual for Responsible Design for a Better World

With the century’s consumption and pollution being at a alarming high, designers and makers are gradually flocking to address these challenges in conscientious manners. Seetal’s book is a beautifully-composed directory to some of these responsible designers and the materials in the foreground of their response. From experimental to large-scale manufacturing, tangible to intangible, handmade to machine-made, the book is an ode to matter, unnoticed before.

Over a year ago, CQ chatted with Seetal Solanki about her research design studio/consultancy/website – Ma-tt-er. It was then she told us of her aim to raise the awareness of what materials are and can be, while highlighting the people who use design to open up the potential of said materials. In 2018’s London Design Festival, she launched her book "Why Materials Matter" – that carries forward the aim of her practice in a tangible manner. She introduces the book without mentions of words like “sustainable” or “innovative”. Instead she chooses to go with “responsible”. Interested to see what this guidebook of responsible design had in store, we found ourselves a copy.

Why Materials Matter

Seetal introduces the book without mentions of words like “sustainable” or “innovative”. Instead she chooses to go with “responsible”.

The matter of the book

The book features designers, artists, architects, researchers, chefs, scientists, brands, students, makers and materials from across the globe. Each highlighting particular social, environmental, economic and political problems encountered in certain countries, and how materials could provide viable solutions. Categorised by the materials that compose the projects, the book is split in three sections – Everyday, Science and Expansive.

The first section – Everyday – looks into materials prevalent in our daily lives, hiding in plain sight. The sections makes one wonder how arguably blind we’ve been to our surroundings. While some projects introduced materials that most of us probably don’t even register as material – such as Billie van Katwijk’s bags made out of cow’s stomach or Jade Ruijzenaar’s ceramic glazing composed of shrimp shell. Other projects were a combination of more obvious ingredients and curious people, such as G.F. Smith’s colourful Coffee Cup Paper, Christien Meinderstma’s chair made of flax fibre, and our personal favourite – Silo, a zero-waste restaurant in Brighton, UK with a nose-to-tail approach to produce.

Billie van Katwijk’s Ventri

The first section – Everyday – looks into materials prevalent in our daily lives, hiding in plain sight.

Jade Ruijzenaar’s Glaze Crangon crangon

Some projects introduced materials that most of us probably don’t even register as material.

Oh, and some materials were just shit! We’re talking about The Shit Museum’s Merdacotta, made from cow dung.

A glance at the content’s table for the Expanse section is enough to leave one wondering – energy, light, air? Can these qualify for materials?

The Science section, as the name suggests, deals with materials whose production involves scientific advancements or which are challenging processes traditionally associated with the sciences. It makes us peek into not just interesting material, but also the process that makes materials into utilities. The section hosts an array of ‘dark’ materials – like Studio Marlène Huissoud’s vessels made from insects – and bloody, quite literally – like Basse Stittgen’s objects made of blood. Whereas others were more cheery – like Chieza’s bacterial garments and our very own Malai. Although most of them fit right into the Science section of the book, one that made us wonder was Object DNA – an exhibition of selected items from the archives of various studios that essentially formed the studio’s DNA.

Studio Marlène Huissoud’s Coccons

The Science section hosts an array of ‘dark’ materials – like Studio Marlène Huissoud’s vessels made from insects.

Basse Stittgen’s Blood Related

This project explores the possibilities of blood as a material. The objects made from it interplay between the strong symbolic meaning of blood and its physicality.

FUNDAMENTALS at Dutch Invertuals

45 Invertuals reveal more than 800 objects that normally remain hidden in the archives of their studios. They offer a glimpse into their private collections, resulting in a distinct reflection of their personal identities.

But if that got you curious, we were just getting started. The next section, presumably the most ambiguous one, was Expansive. A glance at the content’s table for the section is enough to leave one wondering – energy, light, air? Can these qualify for materials? Space 10’s Microalgae, Marcelis’s Light Paths, and Meerman’s Fabricated Air confirms that they do, in fact, qualify for materials. Among all these peculiar substances, the one that most caught our attention was Digital. The two studios featured in digital were both vivid, ethereal and intangible. Are they still materials?

Meerman`s Aera Fabrica

The technique Aera Fabrica is a combination of blow moulding, glass blowing and 3D printing.

Space 10`s The Algae Dome

The Algae Dome is designed to spark conversations about how we might grow large amounts of nutritious food in cities, reduce our impact on the planet, and use biology to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

Why “Why Materials Matter” matters

Designed by London-based design studio Our Place, the book carries forward the language and identity of Ma-tt-er’s website in a simple, approachable manner. Although the book deals with a fair amount of technical, scientific and designerly matter, at no point is the book too complicated to be devoured by people beyond the creative or academic industry. The book is laid out such that if one were to only look at the visuals and read their labels, they would still be able to appreciate the content. The imagery is mesmerising, and the projects awe-inspiring – every project makes one pause, and think about how we can use the most out of materials to design a better future.

While the books makes one feel like Seetal’s finds must have covered every possible material on the planet, wait till you take a look at her website!