As the global waste crisis continues to grow each year, there is an urgent need to re-examine what ends up in landfills and the world’s oceans, and find more sustainable approaches to waste generation, materials and waste cycles. product life. Pratt students examine opportunities and new ideas to solve these critical problems. This year’s Material Lab award recognizes three students whose recent projects reimagine materials and objects/by-products that might otherwise be thrown away and reuse them in new ways.
Founded in 2020, Pratt’s Materials Lab is a collaborative research center with resources and programs to advance the study of design materials at Pratt and help students develop a fluent understanding of materials. The annual Pratt Material Lab Prize recognizes outstanding student work that uses waste streams as a springboard for innovative design thinking and materials exploration.
“At this point in the global climate crisis, it’s easy to feel resigned, pessimistic, but many emerging designers see a way forward,” said Jay Lemire, director of production, labs and design research. materials at the School of Design. “Through research and iteration, these projects use the materials we have around us as a basis for experimentation in search of an application. It’s surprisingly practical: we have the equipment at home.
The 2022 Material Lab award went to Charlotte Reiter, MID ’24, for her “Gonecrete” project, which devised a way to use natural rice and corn starches to create a biodegradable alternative to concrete. Reiter’s research found that in the United States alone, more than 400 million tons of these widely grown crops end up as waste, usually in landfills. Wondering if this waste could be transformed into usable material, Reiter took it a step further by using Gonecrete to create Terratile, a set of scalable tiles that can be used in floor or wall applications in a wide range of easily customizable patterns.
Artists, designers and design professionals whose practices center on the exploration and research of materials made up this year’s jury, which included artists and
designers Thomas Barger and Joseph Algieri alongside educators and designers Garrett Benisch and Elizabeth Bridges, co-founders of OurCarbon.
The jury was particularly impressed with the rigorous research process of the Gonecrete project and the potential for a variety of applications. Bridges said: “What I liked [Charlotte’s entry] is that unlike many people in interior products concerned with sustainability, this product is not about that. It goes beyond this idea of redesigning apps in tons of places for replaceable tiles and more. »
The jury gave an honorable mention to Emma Winick, MID ’24, for the “Durafluff” project, which transforms soft cushioning materials recovered from furniture waste, of which only 0.3% is currently recycled, into solid forms that can be used to make modular furniture that is both robust and easily biodegradable.
Hsiao-Chien Hung, MID ’24, also received an honorable mention for “Paintdora,” a project inspired by when a friend painted her apartment. Hung wondered if leftover paint was a problem and found that almost none of the 75 million gallons of paint that go unused in the United States each year were recycled. Paintdora turns leftover paint into a rubber or leather-like material that can be used to create attractive decorative items, such as a wall clock.
“These projects tackle legitimate environmental challenges and it would be exciting to see them manufactured or managed on an industrial scale,” Algieri said.
All 2022 Material Lab Prize submissions are available online, along with the 2020 and 2021 winning projects.