Canadian designer Lauren Goodman had been noticing how undervalued items are everywhere. ‘Pure potential tossed in the ditch while thinking, this trash is someone else’s problem,’ she wrote in an introduction to her Senior Thesis, as she graduated with an MA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design. ‘Maybe it could be my problem. I could create second chances and see value all around me. All I had to do was listen.’

The result of this thinking is aptly titled ‘This Trash is Someone Else’s Problem’, an umbrella title for an ‘experiment in place-based design’ exploring alternative methods of sourcing materials, manufacturing furniture and involving local communities into the production process. A deep research into land history and Indigenous stewardship was accompanied by a practice rooted in ‘seeking non-exploitative design solutions that foreground local communities and reduce environmental harm.’

Lauren Goodman and The Providence Project

Furniture made from discarded objects by Lauren Goodman

This thinking is central to ‘The Providence Project’, a series of experimental furniture designs made from things Goodman salvaged from the skips of Providence, Rhode Island. The collection features chairs and a table made by assembling found metal scraps including a rebar, crushed tubing and metal wire into traditional, functional furniture forms. 

Furniture made from discarded objects by Lauren Goodman

The pieces’ original functions (such as an ironing board’s structure) can be recognised when looking closely at the furniture, whose parts have been transformed through techniques including forging, welding, casting and spray painting. ‘I look to prolong and transform the lives of objects that have been cast away and forgotten,’ explains Goodman.

This collection, she notes, is made entirely ‘from discarded material harvested from the Providence area: I aim to draw from my surroundings, a narrative of what Providence looks like as furniture.’

Bottom of the Barrel

Furniture made from discarded objects by Lauren Goodman

The ‘Bottom of the Barrel’ collection, on the other hand, is the result of discovering two abandoned oil barrels as she was driving a few miles from her apartment looking for material inspiration. ‘They were perfect,’ she says. ‘Beautiful, discarded steel that once held purpose, now abandoned with nobody left to tell their story.’

Furniture made from discarded objects by Lauren Goodman

Looking at the barrels unveiled their potential: a table, a planter, a firepit, a chair. After taking the objects apart and reassembling them, Goodman experimented with free-poured bronze. ‘I endeavoured to bring more value to the materials while continuing to work in the spirit of spontaneity,’ she adds. The process, which she describes as both playful and experimental, resulted in a long table imbued with a precious, organic aesthetic, the shiny black surface punctuated by the drops of bronze. ‘Sometimes we do things almost by accident and it ends up being the most illuminating thing we have ever tried,’ she explains. ‘This was the culmination of my shift of methodology.’

Dream Collaborators: Faye Toogood, Formafantasma, Gaetano Pesce, Tanya Aguiñiga. §