3 -min. read

By 2080 the world’s largest metal reserves will no longer be underground. They will live among you. Forging metal changed the world, but thousands of years on our greed for this most alien of raw materials has left the earth’s surface ravaged. In 60 years there will be more metal in circulation – electronics, furniture, appliances, building materials – than within the ores we have mined. As our appetite for consumer electronics and the next latest thing soars unabated, e-waste is one of the greatest threats to our planet; its is also one of the most overlooked areas of recycling programmes.

With single-use plastics dominating the waste headlines (with good reason, mind), we should be tuning attuning our minds to the belief that every single thing we touch should find a new life once our time together is done. As hotels continue to employ the latest technologies, it is imperative that considerations are made for recycling those things the march of technological progression has left behind. While it was recently unveiled that Hilton Hotels and LG Electronics are going to collaborate on a pilot programme to recycle TVs in old guest rooms (televisions being the largest contributor to electronic waste), progress in this area is pitifully behind where it should be – and today, plenty more than TV sets comprise a hotel’s technological output.

Onsite, video still, 2017 © Formafantasma
Onsite, video still, 2017 

Amsterdam-based design studio Formafantasma’s Ore Streams – commissioned by Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria on the occasion of their NGV Triennial – is an expansive multidisciplinary project that shines a light on the depressing world of e-waste, while also offering hope in the shape of creative thinking.

“On the surface of our planet, rivers of ore in the form of these discarded materials stream freely, as if in a continuous, borderless continent,” designers Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin explain. “Efforts to recycle this complex hardware remain new, uncharted and contentious. New logistic structures, technologies and cross-country alliances are being forged to allow for the renewal of metals at the lowest expense. As this shift ensues, the mining industry will be permanently altered. We will enter a new phase, where above-ground scavenging will out-perform and out-value digging below the surface for raw material.”

Creating a series of objects that employ this ‘above-ground mining’, Formafantasma use design to encourage a shift for the better – think office furniture constructed from old computer shells; laptop casings used as ornamentation and structural elements; mobile phones piled on top of one another. The duo’s compositions are other-worldly and avant-garde, yet ultimately deliver a simple solution for a complex issue. Not everybody has the creative ingenuity of these highly regarded designers, yet we face the same conundrums. Could this outlandish project serve as inspiration for a brighter future?

Cubicle 1, 2017 © Formafantasma
Cubicle 1, 2017 – courtesy of Formafantasma

Artist-in-residence programmes, a common fixture of a hotel’s creative endeavour, has long been a source of mutual benefit (Claude Monet became The Savoy Hotel’s first in 1901). In an age where the message of art is more important than ever, what if creative hoteliers were to look to Trimarchi and Farresin for inspiration; invite creatives to repurpose electronics that have reached their shelf life? What if the design talent involved in gracing a hotel with its new look were to look to its past? What if old office PCs could become new guest furniture? With guest experience more important than ever before, what if workshops or talks heightened the experiential nature of their stay?

With the world’s natural resources drying up and waste finally getting the airtime it warrants, Formafantasma’s use of design and creativity as a tool for understanding and combating these complex matters offers a glimpse into a future we should all want to be a part of.

Design and production is the problem – it could be the answer, too.

Cubicle 2, 2017 © Formafantasma
Cubicle 2, 2017 

[All images are courtesy of Formafantasma.]


James Davidson
James Davidson is a contributing writer for THE SHIFT and editor-in-chief of We Heart, an online design and lifestyle magazine that he founded in 2009 as a personal blog and now receives over half a million monthly views.

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