Imagine a world filled with soft, plushy objects. A city that you could sink into, quite literally. The possibilities that materials offer to us in imagining the future warrants closer attention. It requires designers to work and think together about how material innovation will inform the future of design, something that the Material Matters fair dwells on at the London Design Festival this year, and something that Italy-based design platform Isola can facilitate through its diverse catalog.
The world’s first digital and physical platform that brings together independent designers and design studios, is participating in the London Design Festival 2023 in the Material Matters design fair , centred on ‘material intelligence.’ Expanding its borders beyond Italy, the curatorial team which spotlights work showcasing exceptional sustainable design, innovation, and handcraft, will be displaying a selection of design practices based on their theme for 2023, ‘Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens,’ in London, UK.
Expanding on the theme, Gabriele Cavallaro, co-founder and CEO of Isola Design Group relayed to STIR, “With this (year’s) theme ‘Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens,’ we want to arouse creativity with a purpose, through the exhibitions we host and curate. (We are) becoming an international hub for talents working on circular design, sustainable furniture, innovative production processes, but also, a new generation of artisans crafting unique collectible pieces.” It is this sense of responsibility towards the environment that Isola wants to engender within the design community through its design exhibitions.
Material Matters, which debuted its first fair in 2022 at the London Design Festival in the iconic five-storey Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf on London's Southbank, shines a light on the transformative potential of materials and underscores environmental consciousness in design in this year’s iteration. Within the showcase that questions how materials will shape our lives in the coming years, Isola’s exhibit focuses on the notion of circular design, and its significance for an increasingly resource-deficit world. Nothing begets nothing. What was once waste, might again be regenerated. The product designs and allied works as well as ideas curated by them will be on display on the third floor of Bargehouse, part of the Bankside Design District, from September 20 - 23, 2023.
The space for the showcase was designed by Isola’s creative director Elif Resitoglu in collaboration with design studio IAMMI and Italian start-up ReMat. The Soft City, Isola’s spatial installation at the fair, imagines a comfortable and human-centric urban environment, with recycled foam bricks becoming the base for their display set-ups while challenging the idea of a world of rigid materiality. Focusing on polyurethane waste recycled through the design, Isola aims to shift conversations and explore the potential of regeneration in material use. The exhibition features a wide array of product designers and studios from all over the world. The idea was to highlight “circular design principles: regenerative resources, reduced carbon emissions, and waste material repurposing. These projects not only embrace sustainability but also boast captivating design aesthetics that we are excited to show in our first Londoner show,” Resitoglu conveys.
The tactile exhibition space asks visitors to suspend themselves into its surreality, and reflect on one’s relationship to the material world. Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens urges one to consider the potential of recycled materials and sustainable design practices in shaping a more harmonious urban environment.
Among the participants that are part of the wide-ranging showcase include Hungarian textile designer Anett Papp; UK-based design studio Botanica Textiles; Belgian design brand Cowboy; American furniture designer Dane Wisnosky; Indian ceramicist Ekta Bagri; Finnish designer Federico Fiermonte; Lithuanian designer Gabrielė Daminaitytė; London-based designer Jihyun Kim; Greek design brand KERAMIK; US-based brand MushLume Lighting; Peruvian design studio Retablo; visual artist and designer Adarsh Nellore; Costa Rican studio The Recycle Studio, and Canadian artist Zeynep Boyan.
Extending the discourse on material futures, a highlight of the exhibit at Isola is the presence of UAE-based Colab. The purpose-built material library has shared its wide and innovative archive for perusal in a dedicated space within the show. The selection for the fair was based on discussions with Material Matters to showcase ‘market-ready products created with a circular approach, using local or natural resources and industrial waste.’ The aim was to highlight how easily sustainable practices can become part of one’s daily life. While there are recurring materials such as mycelium, recycled plastic or bioplastics, Cavallaro thinks the way in which each object dialogues with the others transforms the exhibition’s curation.
The main aim of the show—promoting dialogue, community engagement, and reiterating the significance of sustainability in design—is brought to life through the various sensory elements and interactive spaces of the Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens installation. The design of the foam display blocks strewn about the building is meant to seamlessly integrate into the urban fabric while presenting a distinct visual identity.
This is further highlighted by a bar designed by The Good Plastic Company and commissioned to IAMMI Studio, which ties the different pockets of activities together. The bar design by the European-based manufacturer and sponsor of the exhibition calls to mind a cityscape with clear blue skies. The azure blue of the bar evokes a horizon where the sky meets the sea, and circular stool designs represent various towers in the ever-changing urban fabric. Created using recycled materials, the bar emphasises the underlying theme for Isola—reinventing and rethinking design in today’s context.
According to their team, the Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens exhibition will be close to zero waste, which was made possible through the use of sustainable materials, that are reused for each event set-up they’ve done over the year.
Cavallaro elucidates on the overarching goals of Isola and their presence at the design event—“Our vision for an international network of design professionals that gather around the world, exchange ideas, and create a real community, is becoming a reality. Our global stage is expanding even more, and this debut in London will open the doors for new and exciting opportunities.” The blue metropolis, the squishy towers, and the prolific voices at the cutting edge of design—Isola asks us to think of alternatives, of how we can mould the future with what we already have, and of the inherent fluidity of the material world.
‘Nothing Happens if Nothing Happens’ is on display from September 20 - 23, 2023, at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House St, London SE1 9PH, UK.
London Design Festival is back! In its 21st edition, the faceted fair adorns London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts including Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Brompton, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Mayfair, Bankside, King's Cross, and more. Click here to explore STIR’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2023.