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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Half Dose #69: Wasted

Back in undergraduate architecture school, for a studio in which we were given liberty over the site of a US Embassy, I chose London and buried the building underground, linking it directly to the nearby subway. The excavated building was an extreme form of security, but it also acknowledged the importance and convenience of the London Underground. With that old project of mine in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Wasted, a project curated by Arts Co that was part of this year's London Design Festival and was located in the tunnel connecting the Underground to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

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[photo courtesy Ian Douglas-Jones]

Architect Ian Douglas-Jones and designer Ben Rousseau lined the tunnel with the foil-lined paper sacks that carry tea to Britain from other countries, such as Argentina. As the architect explains, "Wasted showcases the throw away by-product of our penchant for tea, recomposed along with other disposables to form an immersive and jewel-like, semiprecious environment."

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[photo courtesy Ian Douglas-Jones]

The "other disposables" include fire-hoses that droop down the center of the space and help define a seating area; the tunnel becomes a space to sit and contemplate, not just a conduit for movement.

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[photo courtesy Ian Douglas-Jones]

But lest the project exist solely to make visitors question their drinking habits and the waste created from partaking in afternoon tea, it also "forms the launch of E&K Arts, a range of everyday, beautiful products created in collaboration with artists from waste."

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[photo courtesy Ian Douglas-Jones]

It's pretty easy to see how this environment crafted from tea sacks is fitting for the launch of "chic, environmental products from reclaimed materials." It utilizes a portion of the waste product unseen (foil liner) so that the origins of it are basically unknown. Douglas-Jones and Rousseau take their medium and sculpt an enchanting space that elevates the mundane into something special.

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[photo courtesy Ian Douglas-Jones]

This subterfuge of a sort raises questions about luxury goods and their relationship to art and design. Elvin & Kresse's (the E&K in E&K Arts) saddle bag -- made from old fire hoses -- goes for £99.00 ($165), hardly an inexpensive item but less than a comparable Louis Vuitton or Dior bag. Nevertheless, will cheap, recycled materials become the next mark of luxury, for their design as much as for their eco-sensitivity? Will the LV and Dior stamps lose favor to Freitag, E&K and others opting for recycled rubber over calfskin? In time perhaps, especially if their designs are as striking as Wasted.

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[photo courtesy Ian Douglas-Jones]

Links:
:: London Design Festival (project page)
:: Ian Douglas-Jones
:: Ben Rousseau
:: Arts Co
:: E&K Arts

2 comments:

  1. I guess you know about Duchamp"s exhibit design with the bags of coal hanging from the ceiling, and Warhol's silver baloons.

    Looks like these guys do....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nope, Thomas, I don't know those. But if there's two artists that did things before anybody else it's definitely them, more so Duchamp than Warhol.

    ReplyDelete

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