It's one thing to make a product using aluminium or plastic recycled at a plant. But recycling cans into chairs — on the same street they were found — is something else. That's exactly what the resourceful designers at Studio Swine did on a recent trip to São Paulo.
The London-based designers call their project Can City. It was inspired by São Paulo's informal recycling system, which is powered by catadores — independent collectors who gather aluminium and cast-offs in their handmade carts. The Swine team created a small, impromptu furniture production facility using little more than local tools and secondhand "waste" materials.
Here's how it worked. The design duo created a makeshift foundry fuelled by vegetable oil from local cafes; once up and running, these were strong enough to melt down crushed cans — which were then poured into molds using sand from nearby construction sites.
The resulting collection of stools was created using the forms of items found at food markets (where there were also intended for use), resulting in a new kind of seating vernacular. While this "cast on demand" system might cut into the profits reaped by these catadores, and thus it's tough to imagine them catching on in a large scale, it's still amazing to see it in-action.
The idea of rethinking the way we treat our rubbish is one that Studio Swine has mastered; most notably, perhaps, with their Sea Chair (which they subsequently open-sourced), a stool made from plastic trash sourced from the ocean. But the duo also take cues from other eras, like the Brazilian Tropicalia movement — the basis for this unique wood and blown-bottle series. It's quite a range of references for a duo based in England.
We're excited to see where their travels take them next.