Dezeen Magazine

Sarasara by Genevieve Levivier

Seven uses of unconventional materials at Lake Como Design Festival

A lamp made of volcanic rock and a cork chair are among the products exhibited at Lake Como Design Festival that make use of unconventional materials.

The products all form part of the Contemporary Design Selection show, which is on display at the neoclassical Villa Salazar until the end of the festival on 24 September.

Curated by Giovanna Massoni, the show aligns with this year's overriding theme of Natural History, which pays homage to the explorations of naturalist Pliny the Elder on the 2,000th anniversary of his birth in Como.

"The objects we will present in this edition will contribute to creating an anthology of narratives that narrate the transition towards a world of change," said Massoni.

Each of the pieces in this roundup and wider exhibition is now up for sale with the collectables auction platform Catawiki, a partner of Lake Como Design Festival.

Read on for seven uses of unconventional materials at the festival:

Monk Chair by Cedric Etienne at Lake Como Design Festival

Monk Chair by Cedric Etienne

Slabs of charred cork were combined to form the monolithic Monk Chair, designed by Belgian designer Cedric Etienne. According to Etienne, "proportion is the only ornament".

A natural and renewable material, cork is becoming increasingly popular in architecture and design, but it is more commonly seen in the form of cladding panels or building blocks.

Monk Chair can be found in the Still Room, a quiet space for contemplation curated by Etienne, which also features a matching brown meditation cushion.

Plinio Lamp by FMM Design at the Contemporary Design Selection

Plinio Lamp by FMM Design

One of Contemporary Design Selection's most unusual displays is the Plinio Lamp by Italian studio FMM Design. It was crafted from steel and covered in basalt, a type of black volcanic rock.

The cloud-like lamp was handmade to evoke a pyroclastic flow – the fast flow of hot gas and volcanic material in an eruption. A bulb is hidden within its top, while it is mounted on a base of blocky basalt.

According to FMM Design, it is a nod to a legend that Pliny the Elder died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Sarasara by Genevieve Levivier at the Contemporary Design Selection

Sarasara by Genevieve Levivier

In architecture and design, hemp fibres are usually used for cladding or insulation. Here, designer Genevieve Levivier used them to create the delicate Sarasara textile.

The fibres were combined with polylactic acid (PLA), a natural polymer derived from renewable sources such as starch, in this case taken from food and agricultural waste.

Levivier created micro-perforations in the textile with a laser, which makes its surface vary in depth. The outcome is a soft and tactile piece that draws on natural landscapes.

Redemptio by Pulpas Studio at Lake Como Design Festival

Redemptio by Pulpas Studio

Spanish designer Pulpas Studio gave new life to non-biodegradable acrylic partitions once used to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when creating Redemptio.

The glass-like side table was formed from a single folded piece of recycled polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), otherwise known as acrylic, and finished with a subtle pink hue.

Riflessioni Cielo-Mare by Giovanna Latis
Photo by Catawiki

Riflessioni Cielo-Mare by Giovanna Latis

Riflessioni Cielo-Mare is a tapestry crafted from i-Mesh, a textile that can be formed from various natural fibres and man-made yarns. It is intended primarily for use as an architectural surface material and is manufactured by a company of the same name.

The specific fibres used in this product were obtained from basalt and fibreglass, as well as a man-made version called Technora, which i-Mesh claims is eight times as strong as steel.

Designed by Italian architect Giovanna Latis, the tapestry is one of several at Lake Como Design Festival showcasing the potential of i-Mesh. Nearby in the Stories of Fabrics exhibition, Japanese architect Tomo Ara also exhibited an ornate tapestry made from the material.

Giraffa Alta by Jonathan Bocca made from paper-mache
Photo by Robert Mawdsley

Giraffa Alta by Jonathan Bocca

Paper waste sourced from Lucca was used to create this giant papier-mache lamp, which is modelled on the form of a giraffe.

It was designed by Italian designer Jonathan Bocca following three years of research into paper recycling, upcycling of industrial waste and "anti-extractivist materials".

It is being exhibited at the Contemporary Design Selection show alongside a matching pink coffee table, which was also made of papier-mache and forms part of a collection called Restless Objects.

Knoturalia by The New Raw at Lake Como Design Festival

Knoturalia by The New Raw

The intricate, looping surfaces of these vases were informed by traditional knitted fabrics but are actually crafted from 3D printing with plastic waste.

According to their designer The New Raw, they were the result of an "ambition of giving new life to waste materials through design, robots and craftsmanship".

The studio also recently used plastic waste to create play furniture, which is among those to have been longlisted in the Dezeen Awards 2023 sustainability category.

The photography is by Lizzie Crook unless stated otherwise. 

 Contemporary Design Selection is on show at Lake Como Design Festival from 16 to 24 September 2023.  See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.