Some structures aren't designed to last, so why build them out of everlasting materials?
Businesses, governments and not-for-profit groups regularly make use of structures that are of a temporary nature. While users want these infrastructure designs to be beautiful and evocative of their purpose, the question remains: why not build them out of materials that are environmentally friendly?
The use of low-impact materials that minimise waste and pollution can not only contribute to an aesthetic that’s unique and inimitable but it can also help promote the values of the brand itself.
Australian skincare brand Aesop is one such company that aims to constantly lessen their environmental footprint and to improve their practices. They're currently signatories to the Australian Packaging Covenant, a sustainable packaging initiative which aims to change the culture of business to design more sustainable packaging, increase recycling rates and reduce packaging litter. They speak openly in their FAQs about the logistical difficulties of achieving some of these sustainability goals, but I think they're onto something with their use of cardboard in a few of their interior fit-outs - an area that is in a constant state of flux due to seasonal product rotations.
Aesop employed architectural firm March Studio to reconfigure the design of its busy Flinders Lane outlet in Melbourne. By hiring architects with an environmentally conscious approach to design, Aesop promotes its innovative and progressive values to customers and industry partners. The company not only applies low-impact, spatial design techniques to the look and functionality of its flagship outlets, but to its concept stores as well.
Head architect and partner of March Studio, Rodney Eggleston, says “good design should inherently be sustainable…we refuse to use plasterboard or materials that have bad environmental footprints” (Aesop on Design). Eggleston also highlights the ability for the chosen material to take over and embody the space. Industrial materiality is an important image consideration for a brand - even for a skincare product. It can provide a unique opportunity to exhibit the properties of unorthodox materials that are both sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.
Materiality was a major consideration in March Studio’s temporary makeover of Aesop’s Flinders Lane store in 2007. The store’s interior was technically constructed in just five days and the store fit-out was made entirely from industrial-grade cardboard, from the shelving units and countertop to the eastern facade.
‘The large sheets of double-faced packing cardboard were cut to expose the cross-section of corrugated padding between the layers’ (Taxonomy of design).
By using recyclable cardboard as the overall spatial facade, Aesop communicates that its ‘interest in intelligent and sustainable design extends to every aspect of Aesop’s workings’ (Merci in France). As opposed to typical structural materials, such as concrete, timber, marble, plasterboard and aluminium, cardboard is simple in its composition and is easily recyclable. As such, the environmental impact of this material is minimal in both the construction process and following its disposal.
It is the elevation of the recyclable cardboard box to a level of artistic appreciation that helps Aesop convey and define its environmentally conscious values and practices. Aesop’s choice of material demonstrates the importance it places on the use of simple, aesthetically pleasing, and environmentally sustainable options in both the design of its stores and consumer products.
(Aesop on Design): http://www.aesop.com/au/article/on-design.html?active=artical
(Merci in France): http://www.dezeen.com/2011/01/04/aesop-at-merci-by-march-studio/
(Taxonomy of design): http://taxonomyofdesign.com