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September 2013

Recycling and upcycling at Vienna Design Week

P48-buzzilightThe morning after the opening party of the Vienna Design Week, the event's organizers were feeling, quite understandably, a little rough. But they had scheduled a press tour for 10 a.m., so they rallied, leading us on a journey through several of the festival's 47 locations.

The exhibits in the festival are eclectic. Some are purely theoretical, others are already commercially available. On the commercial side, I was taken by the products from Buzzispace. The company is deeply offended by excess noise -- in particular, reverb. I happen to share that sentiment; I still get enraged when I think about noise levels in New York City. (Why don't taxis have to disable their P1010640horns when they enter Manhattan? Why is the music so loud in restaurants that it makes everyone  scream over it?) To combat unwanted noise, Buzzispace has designed sound-absorbent, felt-like materials out of recycled PET plastic and recycled wool. These are used to construct cool furniture for offices and, to a lesser extent, homes (like the lamps in the photo above, or the pouf to the right, occupied by Vienna Design Week co-organizer Lilli Hollein). Buzzispace's prices are a little daunting, but the exhibit, in the festival's center in the fourth district, inspired me to put more fabric into my high-ceilinged, echoey apartment.

P1010612The Kunstraum Niederoesterreich, located in Vienna's center, exhibited another project inspired by concerns about the environment. Called "I love Brot," the artist, Kathrina Dankl, took old bread from a bakery, which would otherwise get thrown out, and baked it again into bread chips. Visitors are invited to take a bag of chips, taste them, and then pass judgment by putting a chip into one of three slots: "good," "has potential," or "not to my taste." I was impressed: I ate my vote.

I got the biggest kick out of a third exhibit with a related, "upcycling" theme. The Souvenir Transformation Center, by students from the Kunstuniversitaet Linz, takes on the stuff you have sitting around -- you know, the objects you don't have any use for but that you also can't get rid of due to se P1010619ntimental value or maybe just hoarding tendencies. At the Souvenir Transformation Center, you place the object on a conveyor belt, which transports it into a big white box (in fact the proverbial "black box," since what's inside is a secret). Some unspecified amount of time later it emerges on the other side in a new form, sealed in a vacuum pack. "You have the chance of freeing yourself from the material things of the past and reliving your relationship to the object afresh," the catalog declares. "Transformed" objects I saw included a necklace, a teapot, an apple, and an Eiffel Tower souvenir (photo left).

Vienna Design Week is an annual affair. This year it continues until October 6. I hope to go see more of it before then.

(All photos except the first, which is from Buzzispace, are mine.)