MaterialDistrict Rotterdam 2019: today’s materials for tomorrow’s innovations

From Tuesday 12 till Thursday 14 March, the leading material innovation event for R&D and design professionals took place: MaterialDistrict Rotterdam 2019. With a comprehensive programme with 50 lectures from material experts, 140 exhibitors, 100+ large exhibition pieces and 200 innovative materials, this edition was once again a great success for organizer MaterialDistrict (formerly Materia).

For the first time, the event took place under its new name, MaterialDistrict Rotterdam (formerly Material Xperience), with even more innovations than previous years. Over 7,500 R&D and design professionals from the worlds of Architecture, Interiors, Products, Textiles & Fabrics, Urban & Landscapes, and Print & Sign were immersed in everything new in their sector. On top of this, 50 material experts expanded on the visitors’ vision of the future of materials within their sector during the lectures, and six sector pavilions presented a unique and varied selection of materials and exhibition pieces of well-known and lesser-known designers.

Loads of positive responses
Visitors, as well as exhibitors, were enthusiastic about the material innovation event. Especially the extensive selection of innovative and sustainable materials that visitors could see, feel and smell were praised, as well as the combination of disciplines. Additionally, the open layout of the trade fair floor, the extensive lecture programme and the quality and diversity of the visitors are reasons for both visitors and exhibitors to return next year.

Cross-sectoral material innovation
Once more, MaterialDistrict Rotterdam made clear that material innovation doesn’t stick to one specific sector. In many cases, material innovations that were initially developed for a specific sector or purpose, are also of great value to other sectors. By offering a material innovation platform that focuses on various sectors, MaterialDistrict Rotterdam builds a bridge between the six different sectors, stimulating cross-sectoral material innovation and development.

Sector ambassadors
All six sectors were represented by sector ambassadors, who acted as material experts for their sector. These experts guaranteed an excellent representation of the trends and developments that are taking place in the different sectors, in both the exhibition and the lecture programme. For the sector Architecture, the ambassadors were Ben van Berkel and Filippo Lodi (UNStudio and UNSense), for Interiors the design duo Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe (Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe), for Products Anouk Groen (RNA Design), for Textiles & Fabrics Anne Marie Commandeur (Stijlinstituut) and Liesbeth in ’t Hout, for Urban & Landscapes Cees Donkers (former city architect of the city of Eindhoven, the Netherlands) and for Print & Sign it was Annemarie Kleve (Anders2).

Highlights and trends
In its own exhibition of materials that have been scouted in the past year, MaterialDistrict presented the most important trends in material development: circularity, sustainability, and durability. The exhibition was divided in three categories, namely biocycle (materials made from renewable, natural resources), technocycle (materials made from recycled, non-renewable materials, like concrete, plastic and glass), and performative materials, which includes materials that are smarter, more sustainable, more durable, and/or otherwise better.

In line with the theme sustainability, MaterialDistrict in collaboration with Yksi Expo presented the exhibition ‘Like Leather’, in which projects were presented that make leather(-like) materials from unsuspected resources, like leather made from cow stomachs, shot boars, fish, and leather waste, but also from vegetable sources, like banana fibres, coffee grounds and tree bark.

Sector Products
Within the sector Products, ambassador Anouk Groen chose the themes ‘Eat me’, ‘Fold me’, ‘Love me’, and ‘Reuse me’, in accordance with themes that can be spotted in this sector. Lectures were given by, amongst others, Groen, and Satyendra Pakhalé (Satyendra Pakhalé Associates). In the exhibition, visitors could enjoy a coffee table made from hard candy, lamps made of old CDs, a robot that can do karate, and much more.

Sector Print & Sign
Trends in the world of Print & Sign are, according to ambassador Annemarie Kleve, ‘Digital’ and ‘Effects’. The lecture programme was represented by Jutta Birkenhauer of paper company GF Smith and Ariane van Mancius of New Now Next and others. The exhibition consisted of various types of paper and a printer that prints images directly onto the wall.

Sector Architecture
The most important themes that ambassadors Ben van Berkel and Filippo Lodi of world famous architectural studio UNStudio and UNSense perceive within the sector of Architecture are ‘Technology’, ‘Health’, ‘Social Impact’, and ‘Media’. Lectures were given by Lodi, Maurizio Montalti of mycelium company Mogu, and other experts. Other highlights included the Coolest White, an ultra-durable paint that protects buildings and urban structures from excessive solar radiation, and Goodhout, a wood alternative made of coconut waste, a mock-up of an aerogel façade and building blocks of mycelium by Mogu and Krown Design.

Sector Urban & Landscapes
Ambassador Cees Donkers sees as most important themes within the sector Urban & Landscapes ‘Urban lab’,  ‘Water’, ‘Green’, and ‘Social Design’. The lecture programme was presented by Donkers, Anouk van der Poll (vanderPolloffice) and Eduard Böhtlingk of Böhtlingk architecture. The exhibition consisted of, amongst other things, pavement tiles that promoted vegetation and that helped contain and drain rainwater by Fien Dekkers, Gewildgroei and Studio Wae, as well as a traffic sign made of bamboo, and 3D printed urban furniture by 10XL.

Sector Interiors
Ambassadors Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe put the theme ‘Dialogue’ in the limelight. During the lecture programme of Interiors, Van der Lubbe, Lex Pott, Arne Lijbers of Mecanoo architecten and Jos Stuyfzand of Philips shared their vision of the future interior. The exhibition consisted of, amongst other things, a palm leather carpet by Tjeerd Veenhoven, tiles made from algae by Ecolurian, a rug made of textile waste by Simone Post and illusionary glass by Kim Zoutewelle.

Sector Textiles & Fabrics
Within the sector Textiles & Fabrics, ambassadors Anne Marie Commandeur and Liesbeth in ‘t Hout see the themes ‘Digital’., ‘Crafts’ and ‘Recycling’ as the most important trends. The lecture programme consisted of Commandeur and Niek Pulles (Nike), amongst others. The exhibition showed a variety of interesting fashion pieces, like shoes with soles made of recycled gum by Gumdrop, a dress “grown” by grassroots by Diana Scherer, Flyleather shoes by Nike and some couture pieces by Viktor and Rolf made from recycled garments.

Next year: More MaterialDistrict Rotterdam, more material innovation
MaterialDistrict Rotterdam 2019 was a great success, as the positive responses of both exhibitors and visitors show. Next year, MaterialDistrict Rotterdam will continue to reinforce the bridge between the different sectors, stimulating cross-sectoral material innovation and development for R&D and design professionals. MaterialDistrict Rotterdam 2020 takes place 23-25 June 2020 in Rotterdam Ahoy.

Photos: Hanne Hansen / Sjoerd Reitsma