American pavilion, RECKONstruct, unveiled at the XXII International Exhibition of La Triennale di Milano

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Senior Communications Leader,Los Angeles
27 February 2019

The theme of this year’s International Exhibition of La Triennale di Milano is Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, illuminating the connection between humanity and the natural environment through design. The American pavilion, conceived and developed by Arup, Humanscale, MIT’s SHINE Program, Novità Communications, and NextWave Plastics, demonstrates how sustainable design can respond to the current global environmental crisis. Open through September 1, 2019, RECKONstruct spotlights the materials revolution underway in the US and documents how the design studio of New York-based furniture company Humanscale reimagined a simple stool through three different approaches to sustainability — using naturally grown materials (bio-fabrication), harvesting unused waste (circular economy), and mimicking nature’s engineering solutions (biomimicry). 

We’ve become so far removed from the sources of materials we use in our daily lives, including where they come from and where they end up. RECKONstruct gives us elegant and tangible examples of how design that is conscientious of the life-cycle burdens of materials can bring forth better products to the spaces in which we spend our lives. ”

Russell Fortmeyer Russell Fortmeyer Arup Associate Principal and Sustainability Consulting Leader and Chief Curator of the exhibit

An immersive film, produced by engineers in Arup’s Los Angeles office, contrasts these innovative design concepts with conventional manufacturing approaches. The concept of the immersive film emerged from a consideration of the disconnect of design exhibitions from the outside material world. The curatorial team wanted to invite Triennale visitors to experience the reality of the material sources and supply chains that make possible the design objects on view throughout the exhibition, choosing an innovative 360-degree filming and audio recording technology to develop original filmed sequences to tell the full materials lifecycle story. In the exhibition, viewers are immersed into situations as diverse as a California coastal forest, an active rock quarry operation in Kansas, Humanscale’s New Jersey manufacturing facility, and a construction recycling yard in Southern California.

Using materials including bio-fabricated mycelium from Ecovative Design, plastic from fishing nets harvested from the ocean by Bureo, a member of NextWave Plastic’s consortium of materials suppliers committed to mitigating environmental contamination, and non-recyclable municipal waste, the stools have the capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, reduce ocean plastic pollution and avert methane emissions from landfills.

Stickbulb provided the pavilion’s lighting installations. The Bough pendants on display are made from 300+ year-old redwood salvaged from a dismantled water tower at 32 Court street in Brooklyn, New York.

RECKONstruct invites visitors to immerse themselves in a new circular economy, experiencing its activities in spatial, audial and temporal terms, which expose the hidden opportunities of the material life cycle as a call to both collective and individual action.