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Three examples of Icelandic material design

Using waste in material design is a great way to help the environment, but it does ask for some ingenuity and creativity. Below are three projects from students from the Iceland Academy of Art that all have found fascinating ways to use otherwise discarded materials.

In the summer of 2014, thousands of homes where destroyed in the Gaza Strip during an attack from Israel. Because of this, many Gazans were left homeless, and because of an embargo on importing building materials, they could not rebuild their houses. In order to find a solution for this humanitarian crisis, Corto Jabali, who is a third generation Palestinian, created Gazabrick, a brick made from materials that are either accessible in the Gaza Strip or have not been banned by the embargo.

Jabali came across geopolymer cement, which was rediscovered in the 70s by Joseph Davidovits, a chemist. This material is low tech to produce and may have been used by Ancient Egyptians. The cement can be made with natron salt, wood ash and kaolin and then formed into bricks.

Recently, Palestinian Majd Al-Masharawy fabricated bricks for the Gaza Strip in a similar way using ash, called Green Cake.

Stone wool production is the only glass-related industry on Iceland, which is only done in one factory in the north of Iceland. Stone wool is made from three kinds of sand, and consists of two thirds of black basalt sand, which is harvested from beach next to the factory. However, stone wool is not recycled, despite the fact that new stone wool can be made from it. For her bachelor graduation project, Kristín Sigur∂ardóttir found a way to recycle stone wool by turning it into synthetic obsidian tiles.

Natural obsidian is a rare material that is in high demand. It is used in architecture, for instance in the Icelandic National Theatre. By melting stone wool and turning it into tiles, isolation material becomes decoration material. Synthetic obsidian made from stone wool can be used as a substitute for natural obsidian and has the advantage that it can be recycled.

Birtast (Appear)
Tomato farming demands a lot of energy, water and fertilisers, yet only a small part of the plant is actually consumed. Leaves and stems are often thrown away. In order to reduce the waste produced, Birta Rós Brynjólfsdóttir decided to turn the plants and leaves into sustainable paper.

The paper is made by boiling the plant parts and then pressing them together to form sheets. The paper is not suitable to write on, as it is too dark. However, by using UV light the paper can be discoloured in pre-decided areas to print text or images on it. The paper is suitable for instance to wrap the tomatoes, making the production self-sufficient. After use, the paper can be composted.

Birtast was exhibited during the Dutch Design Week 2016 (22-30 October).

Photos: Corto Jabali / Kristín Sigur∂ardóttir / Birta Rós Brynjólfsdóttir