With the current economic climate, middle-class citizens interested in making their lives more environmentally sustainable are hard pressed to find affordable solutions. In this spirit, GreenHomeNYC held the Green Design Challenge, where contestants were asked to design green lounge furniture that pushed the boundaries of sustainability with commonplace and inexpensive materials. Five winners were given credit to procure materials at Film Biz Recycling and Build It Green! NYC and two weeks to present their built designs at GreenHomeNYC's The NEW New York green DIY block party, held this past Saturday in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Inhabitat was involved in judging the contest, and we were on the scene to try out the winning designs before they were auctioned off!
Pratt Institute student Rosa Munar represented her Spanish compatriot Andres G. de los Salmones with their project Re-Plant, a series of reused terra cotta planters stacked atop one another and filled with vegetation. The pots are bolted together in a grid, with each planter facing the opposite direction as its horizontal and vertical neighbors; the structure can be experienced from either side. Several of the modular units are filled in with flexible planting beds, repurposed permeable pockets constructed from thatched potato sacks lined with woven plastic bags. Each pocket is filled with different kinds of soils and plants. Some units are left open and their bottoms cut out to let light, air and views through the structure, forming a more permeable piece. Because of its modular nature, Re-Plant may be configured as a full height wall, a fence, a bench, or a combination of the three.
Explorations in unconventional materials become the focus of Safety Fence Chair, by Anthony Di Mari, a graduate of Harvard GSD. Composed of used plastic construction fencing and steel reinforcement scraps, the chairs appropriate the largest source of landfill in the USA, construction waste, into elegant and brightly colored creations that would look just as appropriate in a designer house or a conventional home’s backyard. Assembly of the piece is simple as well, provided one has welding capabilities. Rebar is bent into various configurations analyzed for ergonomics and comfort, and plastic mesh is wrapped around the completed frame. Available in a variety of colors and mesh configurations, the safety fence provides some level of customization to the chair.
No green lounge furnishing on display offers the level of customization of Sooho Kim‘s Sewn Bench. Kim is an interior architecture student at the Academy of Art University. Created from reclaimed wood, bamboo, and straw rope, this seat consists of two end planes kept in place by multiple linear pieces piercing through holes drilled into each end. Depending on material qualities of the linear pieces, consisting of bamboo pieces, wooden dowels, and rope, the end wooden blocks are kept in place via friction or tension. The interaction between plane, line, and point is exacerbated by Sewn Bench’s custom material: recycled fabrics. The seat transforms from a series of linear pieces spanning the structure into a flexible plane through the weaving of available fabric scraps and rope pieces. A truly sustainable piece of furniture, Sewn Bench relies on available materials to dictate its aesthetics.
Modularity infiltrates several of the designs as well, especially the Green Partition by Alex Weber. A student from Southern Illinois University, Alex has taken scraps of plywood, corrugated cardboard, and medium density fiberboard and assembled it into a structural grid of shelves and compartments where recycled planters can be placed and transform the structure into another green wall. The vertical component is supported by an extruded horizontal seating piece, also configured in a grid. The seat recalls a foundation, upon which the partition cityscape is assembled.
The grid is the obvious structural inspiration for Jessica Happi’s Grid Chair, as well. Instead of relying upon more organic materials such as ceramic or wood, however, Jessica removes harmful plastics from the waste stream by converting corrugated plastic sheets into playful, colorful seats resembling a structural framework removed from a beanbag. Such a familiar shape represents the initial aesthetic appeal of Grid Chair, but its structural strength relative to weight and extension of usable life of plastics are truly innovative.
The Do-It-Yourself spirit encompasses a desire for a personal aesthetics, and the ingenuity to reuse and reinterpret conventional materials and waste. While our government scrambles and battles in search for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable solutions to our current struggles and issues, it is up to us, common people, to improvise and build our own environment, social capital, and ultimately our sustainable future. The Green Design Challenge presented some excellent designs that can be replicated with minimal budgets and abilities; hopefully this contest will inspire a new generation of designers, and show that anyone can help build a more sustainable future.
All images © Leonel Lima Ponce for Inhabitat