SINGAPORE – A new exhibition titled Circular Futures: Next Gen at the National Design Centre showcases a range of tech-driven designs that are reusable and eco-friendly from concept to finished product.
Taking pride of place at the exhibition – which is produced by digital art and technology start-up Artacia and ends on April 9 – is the Chandelion, a spherical chandelier inspired by the humble dandelion.
Approach it and you will see that the structure, which measures 1.5m in diameter, is made up of 153 empty perfume bottles placed at the ends of slim, tubular spokes made from recycled aluminium cans with tiny LED bulbs at the tip.
The chandelier project is just one of many designs being showcased by Architectural Intelligence Lab or AirLab, a multidisciplinary research laboratory established at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in Somapah Road.
Led by Professor Carlos Banon, AirLab combines additive manufacturing – also known as 3D printing – with parametric design (algorithm-based design) to reduce wastage and create new aesthetics in architecture.
The stunning Chandelion embodies an important message that the organisers of Circular Futures: Next Gen want to get across: Circularity – making reusable products via a process which is environmentally friendly from start to finish – concerns everyone, not just businesses or governments.
Also called “circular systems” or the “circular economy”, the concept is also key in prolonging the lifespan in the coming years of Singapore’s only offshore landfill for the nation’s trash, the Semakau Landfill in Semakau Island.
The show’s organisers assert that it is now possible to push the boundaries of design and sustainability to go from zero waste to exploring circular systems, emerging technologies and potential solutions.
To stage the exhibition, Artacia’s founder and curator Avantika Malhotra collaborated with SUTD, AirLab and formAxioms, a research laboratory in SUTD which experiments with blockchain, as well as virtual, augmented and extended realities (VR, AR and XR).
“I think the message is that everyone has a role to play,” says Ms Malhotra, who founded the local curatorial studio, which partners with artists and designers, in July 2019.
Involved with the arts for over 25 years in different capacities, the 52-year-old was also an art lecturer at Reading University in Berkshire in the United Kingdom and has a post-graduate diploma in Asian Art from the British Museum.
“While the exhibition showcases how designers are using technology and innovation to convert waste materials into beautiful functional products and create sustainable solutions, the story does not end here.
“We all have a collective responsibility to take this forward,” she says. “We need to start accepting and supporting these products so that everyone involved is incentivised to continue developing sustainable solutions. This is what will create a truly sustainable cycle.”
The Chandelion comprises 153 discarded perfume bottles, which were upcycled with a new central core made of 3D-printed filament produced from used plastic bottles and recycled aluminium tubes. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
The exhibition’s collaborators include SUTD, the National Environment Agency (NEA), food and beverage brand F&N Foods, main sponsor DBS Bank, virtual reality firm Pico and the SG Eco Fund. It is supported by Design Singapore Council.
To fabricate the designs – such as stools, vertical farm structures and floating farm pods – more than 150kg of plastic waste made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) transparent bottles was upcycled into filaments for 3D printing machines.
Part of the plastic waste was collected from the smart Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) under the Recycle N Save initiative by F&N Foods and the NEA, which was rolled out in October 2019.
Since the launch, more than 13 millionplastic bottles and aluminium drink cans have been collected through 50 RVMs across Singapore and from schools.
The Floating Farm Pod can be used in water bodies to maximise farming space and mitigate the environmental effects of land-based farming. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
The concept of circular systems is gaining traction as more knowledge of sustainability is being spread throughout the community, observes Professor Tai Lee Siang, SUTD’s head of pillar for architecture and sustainable design.
“A key part of circularity is understanding recycling and reuse,” he says. “Many businesses and consumers are beginning to appreciate the importance of recycling to the environment and they are willing to pay the difference in price.
“However, it is also important to make recycling beautiful and appealing. A new aesthetic is on the rise and many consumer products are building on the edginess of such a concept.”
Prof Tai adds that this is possible only through a mastery of design and craftsmanship, and mature designers are paying attention to the trend. “Circular Futures wows visitors by surprising them with waste that can be transformed into something not seen before.”
AirLab’s director and founder Prof Banon says the use of digital design and fabrication techniques allows for unprecedented precision, complexity and customisation in the design and creation of the prototypes on show.
“The exhibition is a powerful reminder of how technology can be harnessed to create innovative solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time,” says Prof Banon, 44, who is also an associate professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design at SUTD.
Read more here: https://www.straitstimes.com/life/home-design/sustainability-exhibition-circular-futures-next-gen-shows-how-waste-can-be-upcycled-into-luxe-design