Design Feature #56

Planting furniture, architecture And a Sustainable future

Biobased Creations & Studio RYTE

Text: Yau Shun Yu
Translated by: Joel Wong
Image: PMQ

Cultivate plants in gardens and make furniture or materials for residential buildings, constituting things we use daily. This representation of nature's endless vitality cycle is not an imagination but a possibility of the future that can be touched and smelled, as you will see in the deTour 2023 exhibition "Craft by Nature."

Walking into this house titled "Craft by Nature," everything is turned upside down: the furniture is placed outside the house, and the walls are transparent, allowing guests to peep from the outside to the "house-in-house" installation in the center of the house if they want to have a close look. Everything you see there is produced by nature and surrounded by nature. Those are all recycled materials from nature, including reeds, miscanthus, and shells, that are planted in the garden in an orderly manner, representing a twin ecosystem.

deTour 2023 exhibition "Craft by Nature."

Not only seeing is believing, the mastermind behind this project, Biobased Creations, a studio from the Netherlands, everything from nature, whether it is wood, plants, algae, food-derived Waste, sewage, and even bacteria, can be treated as raw materials for construction and creative works. This team of designers, researchers, and artists strongly believes that biomaterials promote a new value that encourages collaboration between different professions that shapes the future.

Biobased Creations, a studio from the Netherlands

“Biobased materials come from nature and can go back to nature, but before that, you can reuse them many times. They are healthy for those building the houses and those living there. They regulate the temperature in and outside the buildings, so we need fewer installations. They provide the farmers an extra business model, combining old crafts and knowledge with new crafts and technology. Their power in shaping the future is that they embody a new value system where professions that never worked together must collaborate architects, builders, farmers, nature experts, designers, water experts, and policymakers come together in a new ecosystem to redefine values. When you can reuse your materials, build modular, and create a circle from land to building back to land, you create a new economy, a circular economy.”

Traditional craftsman knowledge X New craft technology

They describe this as biomaterial combining old craftsman knowledge with new craft technology. It also embodies the spirit of this year's motto of deTour, New Skills, and highlights patterns and forward-thinking on new knowledge and skills, material for the future. Biobased Creations' award-winning past work, "The Exploded View Beyond Building," used more than 100 different kinds of biomaterials to build a life-size house using a circular building approach, proving the construction application of biomaterials is 100% feasible. Bringing two "used walls" from this past work for this year's deTour to display the idea of rootedness in Hong Kong.

Biobased Creations emphasize what they present is not an unattainable dream; in the Netherlands, homes made of 95% biomaterials are being built. The cost is almost the same as traditional builds. "We hope that after visiting the house, everyone's attitude towards a future made of nature will change from 'How is this possible?' to 'How should we do this together?'"

This house also shows signs of embracing the concept of "Craft by Nature" – with more than 50 pieces of creative works carefully selected from European and Hong Kong designers that utilize nature to design, create, and build for display in the house. And to provide the audience with the thought, "Perhaps I can do this," Biobased Creations ensured that the biomaterials used to make this furniture, building materials, clothing, and tools could all be home-grown in Hong Kong, proving the localization of "Craft by Nature" feasibility.

Realizing the home-grown dream

One example is Plant Matter by local design studio Studio RYTE. Studio RYTE has been researching sustainable design directions in response to climate change, which started five years ago, using biodegradable flax fiber to manufacture the Triplex Stool. After years of testing, this modular stool has become lightweight and practical. For this year’s deTour, they further studied the feasibility of using local plants for production.

Local design studio Studio RYTE

They looked through the " Botanical Illustrated Guide to Hong Kong Native Plants" to look for plants that were both native and not endangered and suitable for making furniture. They finally settled on miscanthus, pandanus, and banyan fibers and presented their research results in deTour through material prototypes, videos, and photos.

"Hong Kong has a rich biodiversity. Despite its dense population, the climate and topography still bring us over 3,000 species of native plants. Utilizing these plants that have reached the end of their lives allows us to establish a more harmonious and sustainable relationship with nature."

Converting plants into usable fibers was a challenge in the research process, and the team once again looked for answers locally: They purchased semi-finished products made with pandanus fiber and learned their traditional processing methods. This also deepened the sustainable and circular design concepts they have always adhered to.

Not only Studio RYTE but Biobased Creations also believes that design has the power to bring in changes in a position way, "If we hope for meeting the huge challenges in the future, we cannot rely solely on individual innovations but also need to make a change on the entire system (the emergence of new materials requires new policies and application to support). Hong Kong has high-quality biological design; Studio RYTE is a good example for proving that taking nature as its home base is feasible. Why don't we strive towards this goal together?" Biobased Creations shared such thought.

Is it possible to “grow” a mansion made of flowers? After visiting detour this year, everyone will have the most natural answer in their minds.

deTour 2023

Now to 3 December (11:00 - 20:00)

PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong

For details:

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