Studio Plastique: the world needs ‘sensible and empathic’ design
Brussels-based designers Archibald Godts and Theresa Bastek of Studio Plastique – named by Formafantasma as one of 25 creative leaders of the future in Wallpaper’s 25th Anniversary Issue ‘5x5’ project – on using design to address global challenges
Brussels-based Studio Plastique was founded by Archibald Godts and Theresa Bastek, who met at Design Academy Eindhoven. ‘When we graduated, the idea that, as designers, we would potentially be contributing to filling the world with more unnecessary mass-produced stuff stripped of any character, meaning or grace, quite frankly horrified us,’ say the designers. ‘Instead, we found a common desire to address the many challenges our world is facing.’
The duo’s endeavours have not gone unnoticed, recently seeing Studio Plastique named as one of 25 creative leaders of the future by Formafantasma, for Wallpaper’s 25th Anniversary Issue ‘5x5’ project.
Studio Plastique’s key design themes
The studio explores design’s potential impact on the world, and how it can instill change. They do this by investigating available resources and material supply chains, production processes and their social and environmental impact, and by designing end-of-life ‘recycling scenarios’ for objects. Their work challenges common concepts such as ownership, and explores both the ecological and economic sustainability of design.
A fitting example of this attitude is Current Age (2020), which looks at electricity as an immaterial phenomenon and its indispensable role in today’s society, from culture and communication, to industry, medicine, and technical development. The project originated from a question: ‘If, as designers, our tasks can be to shape a lamp, should it not also include the way the light comes into it?’ Their work was presented through an exhibition at Z33 House for Contemporary Art and Design in Hasselt, Belgium, for which they gathered a group of grid operators, energy providers, innovators, academics, sustainable energy lobbyists and more to present ideas on redesigning electricity and its systems.
Another project by the pair is Common Sands (2016), exploring sand’s ubiquitous nature as ‘a fundamental resource for our civilisation’ (from architecture to communication, household objects, as well as medicine and paint). The studio developed processes to extract sand-based materials (such as silica) and give added value to their unique characteristics.
This also resulted in a collaboration with Snøhetta and Fornace Brioni, and culminated in the soon-to-be-launched ‘Forite’ collection of recycled glass tiles, made from the glass components of discarded ovens and microwaves. ‘With the aim of creating sustainable, smart and refined architectural products, the project creates new value for an abundant yet unexploited group of materials,’ they explain.
The duo urge younger designers to ‘find your own way of being, of meaning, to the world in all its facets, to your community’. ‘There are so many ways of making sensible and empathic contributions as a designer and the world urgently needs those,’ they say, citing collaboration as the key ingredient for emerging designers today.
‘Reaching out to others is key. We see too often how projects fail to make a difference because they weren’t worked on from different perspectives and with as much knowledge on board as possible. Collaboration isn’t just meaningful, but foremost rewarding.’ §