Berlin-based design studio NOWlab created a piece of furniture inspired by the natural movement of water found inside the Mendenhall glacier in Alaska. Though it may seem like an unlikely source of inspiration for furniture, the glacier reveals the lifecycle of water deep inside, where water is continually recycled as the snow packs into ice, which melts into water and creates tunnels and channels in the glacier. The concept of this natural recycling was translated into furniture not only by the shape of the stool, but by using biodegradable material that can be 100% recycled and melted to produce an object of the same or different configuration.
The NOWlab team found inspiration for the project in the effects of global warming on glacial melting across the globe. They were particularly interested in the alarming rate in which the Mendenhall Glacier has receded over the last half century – almost 2 miles since 1958.
The stool was developed and manufactured in collaboration with 3D-printing firm BigRep. The design features a three-dimensional internal microstructure that gives it a high level of structural strength, while remaining lightweight. The shape of the stool is not based simply on the appearance of the glacier’s caverns, but uses these formations in its structural design. The designers identified peak stresses within the geometry and used that information in determining the final configuration of the inner structure. The object manufacturing process simulated the glaciers’ gradual layering of the material.
Digital simulation procedures were integral parts of the design process and the 3D-printing technology has allowed the team to fully embrace digital fabrication and “produce furniture pieces on demand and ready-to-use”.