liquid wood: philippe starck with eugeni quitllet created zartan for magis
liquid wood: philippe starck with eugeni quitllet created zartan for magis liquid wood: philippe starck with eugeni quitllet created zartan for magis
apr 20, 2011

liquid wood: philippe starck with eugeni quitllet created zartan for magis


‘zartan’ by philippe starck with eugeni quitllet realizes a new approach to industrial production in a post-plastic era. at the magis booth on the milan fairgrounds, designboom spotted this from top to toe wholly natural chair, made of a sort of  ‘liquid wood’. the new technology uses wood powder (derived from discarded wood pulp-based lignin) which is mixed with a number of other natural materials (fibers and wax or fish oil) to create a strong, non-toxic alternative to petroleum-based plastics. under high-pressure conditions, the composite material behaves like melted plastic, allowing it to be injected through a nozzle into a mold.

philippe starck at the magis presentation and ‘zartan’ in various finishes (above) image © designboom and rendering by philippe starck(main) image courtesy of magis



going deeper into his collaborative project with eugeni quitllet for magisphilippe starck elaborates in an interview with designboom: ‘plastic is non-biodegradable and can contain carcinogens and other toxic substances that can cause cancer. it is based on petroleum, a non-renewable resource that will soon be harder to come by. I imagine 5 types of different finishes for what you here just see in a raw version of the zartan project: bamboo, flax, hemp, jute, and rattan. this new technology explores the advantages of using natural materials to understand what will be our daily future.’

‘zartan’ on show at the magis booth within the milan fairgrounds during milan design week 2011 image © designboom



‘young designers have to understand that design is not art or fashion. it must be their ultimate goal to find new solutions to real problems. on the political side of our work we need to overcome the damage of production, recognizing the mistakes we have made,’ continues starck.

structural base of the chair and close-up of the ‘liquid wood’ seat shell image © designboom



‘we were rich – we shall be poor, what will be our dignity?‘ says philippe starck to designboom. ‘we need to be less useless possible! in a post-plastic era — in a reality where we have understood that also bioplastic is a crime  against humanity — we need to be confident in the genius of mankind’.

‘zartan’ on show at the magis booth within the milan fairgrounds during milan design week 2011 image © designboom

the raw seat shell image © designboom

lignin tends to have a brownish hue image © designboom

renderings of various finishes image courtesy of philippe starck/magis

renderings of various finishes image courtesy of philippe starck/magis

  • That’s it. I really would wish more designers would have this point of view and use common sense when creating objects.

    astrid says:
  • Like Starck has always been a responsable designer ? churning out plastic chair after plastic chair with Kartell

    This is a like a band aid on a machete wound, the damage is done & our land fill sites await Starck’s plastic past.

    Smokey says:
  • The master of contradiction strikes again, you got to love the genius of communication

    moon says:
  • Petroleum-based materials ARE a key source of environmental concern, but it’s the issue of over-supply and mass-production that is to blame for our current situation.

    As Smokey has mentioned Philipe has been a major protagonist in promoting mass-produced petroleum-based products (I can count 10 plastic chairs just below in the Designboom related articles) and this latest venture by Starck and Magis comes across as being quite insincere and opportunistic – and 5 years too late. Many designers (established and emerging) have been using bio-polymers and environmentally-aware materials for years now and this really just looks as though Magis has jumped on the bandwagon of consumer interest rather than initiating the application. Good on them for using wood lignin, but they really need to offer a take-back scheme for all of their previous products to offer any sought of credible platform for this latest piece.

    This sentence doesn’t make sense at all:
    “in a reality where we have understood that also bioplastic is a crime against humanity”. A crime against humanity – don’t you mean against the environment? The anthropocentric motivations still seem so obvious.

    Sadly yet again “another chair at the fair” – as there are more chairs in the world than people, as designers we need to re-focus are collective intellects and energies on more pressing issues and opportunities, and stop using this ubiquitous item (chair) as our obligatory annual calling card.

    kent gration says:
  • Design-wise I like it. Kind of fresh from starck.

    bill says:
  • this is just plain old tech… its just like and pre MDF put up in a mould. only difference, you use water based glue.

    come on philippe….

    and just a question… what material are the seat legs made from?

    true says:
  • Nice to see critical arguments that express what a lot of people are thinking

    P.L. says:
  • Monsieur Starck, have you seen the Imprint chair by Lammhults? Same idea, only a few years ago…

    George S says:
  • its definitely not ugly.

    And, although admittedly any new chair could be deemed unnecessary, this chair is no more ‘unnecessary’ than the aesthetically passive and visually uninteresting Jasper Morrison chair everyone was raving about a few days ago.

    douglas montgomery says:
  • … but looking again, the renderings do the real object an injustice.

    douglas montgomery says:
  • i don’t usually like Stark’s work, but this is a good design, behind the silly and hypocrite speech, the choice of materials is smart and looks good

    the renderings are ugly, but such paterns on the shell would perfectly fit at Moroso… Patricia Urquiola, leave this body !

    vico says:
  • The problem is not if we need another chair or whatever new cupboard. It is a very interesting project, despite what people have to say. It’s a couple of years that Magis is experimenting this composite and the first result is already a hit. I don’t know Lammhult’s chair, but if more and more companies would invest their budget in experimenting ‘post-plastic’ materials (Philippe Starck), that would be beneficial for all of us.

    Esther says:
  • Yes Esther, if companies did invest more in renewable plant-based materials it would be beneficial, but Magis should have done this years ago given their history of innovation. As I’ve mentioned before the reaction seems to be motivated by the fact that their products are fast-becoming unpalatable to most savvy consumers and this merely seems to be a token effort.

    If Magis and Starck were serious about their concern for the environment, they’d release more than one piece (a whole collection would show that they were putting their money where their collective mouths are), and it wouldn’t require the Starck brand to launch it – which is like BP pushing solar power (let’s face it – mainly motivated by future financial gains), whilst criticising others for drilling oil, and then trying to convince people about their convictions. This is why people on this post are being critical, for what could be a relevant piece. I also fail to see how it can be eco-conscious with fish oil as an additive, given that our oceans/marine life are in decline.

    In terms of new chairs being unnecessary or not, the constant re-invention of the chair is an indication of the human race’s insatiable resource depleting appetite for re-fashioned objects/products that we can survive without. If the Salone were to be shown every second year, the depth and research into products (and not necessarily furniture) would be all that much better. What’s the saying: “re-use REDUCE recycle”.

    To me Starck and Magis are merely following on from others examples, and one would have to question what their motivations are. Lack of relevancy maybe, in a post-hedonistic era, where mass-production/centralising of production facilities is seen as a negative rather than a positive.

    kent gration says:
  • Who is the first one to change the world? Stark to be the one to go back history again. I wanna see SOMEONE in design to express green economy as they are against the big force of authority against big money gamer all around the world.

    Design to change the whole world, please act.

    kazz says:

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