ECAL’s compressed furniture made from biodegradable sponge grows when soaked in water

ECAL’s compressed furniture made from biodegradable sponge grows when soaked in water

ECAL presents sponge furniture in UPS – Under Pressure Solutions

 

During Milan Design Week 2024, ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne presented UPS – Under Pressure Solutions, a series of compressed and lightweight furniture and objects made almost entirely from biodegradable and renewable cellulose sponge. These objects look squeezed, but as soon as they are dipped, placed, or submerged in water, they expand and grow into functional furniture and decor such as tables and chairs, sturdy enough to hold the weight of other everyday objects. ECAL’s sponge furniture is inspired by the late Italian architect-designer Gaetano Pesce’s UP5 chair (1969), which was made from polyurethane foam that self-expands when unpacked.

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
images courtesy of ECAL | photos by Jasmine Deporta (unless stated)

 

 

Biodegradable cellulose sponge grows ten times

 

The research and design team – comprising five industrial designers teaching at ECAL: Camille Blin, Christophe Guberan, Anthony Guex, Chris Kabel, and Julie Richoz – picked cellulose sponge as their main material, given that it can expand ten times its initial size on contact with moisture or water. It took the team two years, several prototypes, and numerous experiments before they could showcase the expanding sponge furniture at Milan Design Week 2024. During the exhibition in Milan, ECAL and its Master’s students in Product Design demonstrated the biodegradable and renewable material’s potential as an alternative for furniture production, from coffee table, stool, bowl, and vase to paper bin, chair, shelf, pendant lamp, and trays.

ECAL’s compressed furniture made from biodegradable sponge grows when soaked in water

 

 

Short timeline of using Biodegradable sponge as furniture

 

The beginning of ECAL’s sponge furniture pivots back to April 2021, in a workshop led by Anniina Koivu, Christophe Guberan, Camille Blin for the first year Master Product design students. The aim was to find prospect materials with compressibility-related properties based on three criteria: compressibility, organicity, and ‘sitability’ (or suitability to create a relatively comfortable seat). 150 materials were first chosen, then funneled down to only 56 after others didn’t match the criteria. Further axing the other materials, the research team then had 10 materials from which to select the main one to work on. In August 2022, they tested these materials until only 3 of them came out suitable for more advanced testing and prototyping: cork, enkair, and cellulose sponge.

ECAL’s compressed furniture made from biodegradable sponge grows when soaked in water

 

 

In November 2022, after a lot of experimenting, the research team found out that the most accessible and efficient material to work with and build objects and furniture from was assembled dried sponge plates. Fast forward to February 2023, and the five researchers proposed an advanced prototype of a cellulose sponge seating element based on the previous experimenting and testing phases. A month later, they were able to settle on a final prototype for a basic stool, with variations on the principles of cutting and stacking dried sponge plates. From the results in this phase, other objects came to rise out of biodegradable cellulose sponge, cut and flattened to a desired shape, ready for soaking and expanding from its dry, compressed form.

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
Chair by Camille Blin

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
ECAL’s biodegradable sponge furniture starts off as compressed | photo by Marvin Merkel

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
once soaked in water, the sponge furniture expands to its proper shape | photo by Marvin Merkel

ECAL-furniture-biodegradable-sponge-ups-under-pressure-solutions-milan-design-week-2024-designboom-ban

Paper Bin by Christophe Guberan | photo by Marvin Merkel

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
Stool and Side Table by Camille Blin | photo by Younes Klouche

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
Stool by Anthony Guex | photo by Younes Klouche

ecal sponge furniture biodegradable
detailed view of the biodegradable cellulose sponge | photo by Younes Klouche

ECAL-furniture-biodegradable-sponge-ups-under-pressure-solutions-milan-design-week-2024-designboom-ban2

detailed view of the Stool and Side Table by Camille Blin | photo by Younes Klouche

1/9
1
 
1
 
1
 
1
 
1
 
1
 
1
 
1
 
photo by Younes Klouche
photo by Younes Klouche

project info:

 

name: UPS – Under Pressure Solutions

institution: ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne

research team: Camille Blin, Christophe Guberan, Anthony Guex, Chris Kabel, Julie Richoz

KEEP UP WITH OUR DAILY AND WEEKLY NEWSLETTERS
suscribe on designboom
- see sample
- see sample
suscribe on designboom
happening now! AXOR makes individual luxury a reality in the bathroom, and reveals its citterio C collection by antonio citterio.

chair design (606)

ecal (16)

materials (71)

milan design week 2024 (69)

table design (124)

PRODUCT LIBRARY

a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

designboom will always be there for you

milan, new york, beijing, tokyo,  since 1999
X
5