MaterialDistrict Utrecht 2023 shows there is great interest in sustainable materials

Despite the snow and the regional transport strike, more than 4,400 architects, interior architects and other material specifiers came to MaterialDistrict Utrecht, the leading material innovation event that took place from Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 March. During the event, a large amount of sustainable materials and products were exhibited, such as recycled plastics, biodegradable materials and products made from natural raw materials. “The fact that the event was well attended, despite the difficult circumstances, indicates that there is a lot of interest in sustainability and that people are willing to commit themselves to this,” says Jeroen Van Oostveen, director of MaterialDistrict, the organiser of the event.

The emphasis on sustainability is important because it makes us aware of the impact of our material use on the environment and the planet. By choosing sustainable materials and products, we can reduce our ecological footprint and contribute to a more circular economy. “We are delighted to hear that the visitors were so enthusiastic about the exhibition and the various sustainable materials and products that were presented,” says Van Oostveen. “We are proud of the exhibitors and their efforts to develop and promote future-proof solutions. At MaterialDistrict, we value sustainability and we strive to play a leading role in the transition to a circular economy.”

More than 4,400 R&D and design professionals from all sectors of spatial design (interior, architecture, garden & landscape, leisure, furniture & interior construction and exhibition, stage & decor) were immersed in everything that is new and sustainable in their sector, through the materials of the 125 exhibitors and the 250 material samples in the material exhibition. In addition, 50 material experts, architects and designers inspired the visitors during the lectures with their vision of the future of materials.

The 125 exhibitors all presented their sustainable and circular innovations, from large companies to young talent, invited by MaterialDistrict and co-curator Leonne Cuppen (Yksi Connect). Innovations in almost all types of materials were presented, such as seaweed sheet material by Seawood, Interface’s carpet backing with a negative carbon footprint, tiles made of circular concrete by Studio Wae, sheet material made of old textiles by Planq, a “stained glass” lamp made with bioplastic from Young Talent Vers La Vie, interior textiles from recycled plastic by Vescom, and much more. “I was positively surprised by the atmosphere and the excellent exhibitions!” one of the visitors responded. “Extra happy with the selection of sustainable designers and exhibitors.”

Not only were the visitors enthusiastic about the materials, the exhibiting material manufacturers were also satisfied with the quality of the visitors. “I was very pleased with the visitors of the event. This was exactly our target group,” said Kimberly, contact person of exhibitor Printerior. “It no longer surprises me, but the quality of the visitors remains high every year,” says Olaf of OVPolymers.

In the curated materials exhibition, MaterialDistrict presented the most important trends in material development in the field of sustainability. No fewer than 250 materials were exhibited. Examples include a vegan and plastic-free leather alternative made from elephant ear, a tropical plant with large leaves, tiles made from seaweed, and insulation and acoustic material made from mycelium, the root system of mushrooms. One of the visitors commented: “The content of the event has been very useful to me because I now have much more knowledge of materials. The range of sustainable and innovative materials surprised me.”

At the lectures, held in two theaters with two simultaneous programmes, more than 50 speakers from the fields of architecture, (material) design and more shared their knowledge with the audience on themes such as Tomorrow’s Timber, Inspired by Nature and Innovation in Architecture. Many of their innovations could also be admired on stands on the exhibition floor. The lecture programme was moderated by, among others, Leonne Cuppen, David Heldt (Connecting the Dots), Samira Boon (Studio Samira Boon), and Christine Jetten (Studio Christine Jetten).

On Wednesday afternoon, the Dutch interior architect association bni organized the session ‘Circular design, collaboration without waste’ with five presentations, which ended with an open discussion with the public.

“I had never been to lectures before, that was a nice new discovery of the fair,” said one of the visitors. The lecture programme was streamed live and watched by people from all over the world. By popular request, the lectures can be viewed at a later date.

Lots of positive reactions
Both visitors and exhibitors were enthusiastic about the materials event. A visit to MaterialDistrict Utrecht is considered important to very important by 75% of visitors, and 87% would recommend a visit to the event to a colleague or friend from the industry. “The Werkspoorkathedraal is an inspiring place in itself, let alone all the new types of materials,” said one of the visitors. “The creative industrial environment lives up to the name in combination with the program content,” said another. “It’s a very inspiring annual ‘outing’; the useful united with the pleasant!”

Next year: More MaterialDistrict Utrecht, more material innovation
MaterialDistrict Utrecht 2023 was a great success, as evidenced by the positive reactions from both exhibitors and visitors. Next year, MaterialDistrict Utrecht will continue to matchmake between material manufacturers and R&D and design professionals. The dates for next year are 6-8 March 2024.

Want to participate? You can find out more here.

Photos: Ilco Kemmere