Fantastic Product Design Student Work: Andu Masebo’s “In Material Union” Chairs

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These chairs by Andu Masebo, produced while he was a candidate for an MA in Product Design at the Royal College of Art, are pretty enough on their own.

However, it is when you learn how they are made that they become doubly interesting:

“This series of chairs has been designed to be as ingenious as possible with the materials with which they are made. Each of their overall shapes and relative dimensions have been optimized for the most efficient use of machining methods and the least amount of resulting waste of material.. Individual components are cut from a single eight-inch board of wood with a rotary cutter. Each positive cut creates the negative of another, and the thickness and width of each component are determined by standardized commercial lumber dimensions. Best intentions.”

In Masebo’s eyes, however, the designer’s intentions are not enough. The user of these chairs must also play his role:

“While this chair is well-intentioned, its overall cradle-to-grave impact may not be. Wood is often talked about in terms of carbon storage capacity, but its use as a material to make Consumer items can only do so successfully when those items are used for a reasonable length of time.Once they are broken down, reused, or turned into waste, their carbon impact on the planet changes dramatically.

“The extent and manner in which carbon sequestration during growth can be ‘credited’ varies between different carbon footprint standards. UK standard PAS2050 assigns a proportion of carbon sequestered based on the lifespan of a For example, 0.19% of the sequestered carbon can be credited for a product used for 25 years, increasing to 50% for a product used for 50 years.Any union envisaged for this duration would require a legal framework as well as a contract in place that could enforce the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved.”

To this end, Masebo actually drew up the contract, and now the meaning of the chairs’ name – In Material Union – becomes clear:

“To live in material union is to respect an object beyond its simple monetary value or its personal utility for us at a given moment. It is to fully consider the impact of the materials with which the object was made , the processes and transportation that brought it into being and the impact of those choices on human and animal populations as well as the natural life cycles that provided us with the materials in the first place.”

“If we were forced to take just one of these variables fully into account when buying something, could that change our consumption habits and reduce the amount of waste we produce?”

If you have a project from last year that you are proud of, take a few minutes to send it to the Core77 Design Awards 2022. We have 18 practice categories, and for this year we have a special sustainability award for all projects that have a beneficial environmental impact. See designawards.core77.com for details and times.


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