Around the world, we buy a million plastic bottles a minute and recycle less than 10% of what we throw away. With numbers like these, plastic has become one of the most persistent and polluting materials on the planet. But architects Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki believe it can also be fodder for new ideas and processes, pushing the boundaries of what we consider as waste — and how it might be transformed into a resource. This sense of urgent exploration is what led them to establish The New Raw: a studio which works ‘to give new life to discarded materials through design, robots and craftsmanship.’ 

Since launching in 2015, the studio has become known for their 3D sculpted designs, using innovative digital technologies to create public artworks and furniture out of everything from bin bags to shampoo bottles. But on the whole, their practice is less about product design than about material research and developing new approaches to making and manufacturing. 

Case in point: later this month, the studio will be heading to Milan Design Week 2023 with ‘Knotty’ — a new collection of playful furniture pieces made out of ‘knitted’ plastic waste. Drawing inspiration from traditional crafts, the project treats plastic waste as a continuous thread of material which folds, twists and loops to create a tactile surface of thick and seemingly soft knots.

Top: Sakkas and Setaki at the New Raw studio (©Michele Margot). Bottom: Knotty bench in mint (©Mathijs Labadie).

According to the team behind the project, the fabric-like texture creates a permeable and load-bearing type of surface which is ideal for outdoor and indoor furniture or other architectural applications. In this way, the ‘knitted patterns’ are not just visually striking but functional and scalable, too.

man and machine, working hand-in-hand

Knotty also reflects an interesting shift in the world of art and fashion, where a growing number of designers are rediscovering slow fabrication methods like macramé, matting, basketry and weaving, and exploring how they can be used to build more sustainable products and systems. As an experiment, it offers up a vision of the future that blends the old with the new and where man and machine can work hand-in-hand.

 ‘We use analogue knitting techniques in homage to the continuous thread of the manufacturing process, testing them out on large and hard furniture surfaces,’ explain Sakkas and Setaki. ‘With our work we want to tangibly express the transition from traditional to digital, and from virtual to physical, with a twist.’

Knotty will be presented for the first time in Milan this 17-23 April at the Alcova exhibition. The benches will be scattered along La Galleria of the Ex-Macello di Porta Vittoria, providing visitors with a resting place and a conversation starter.

Knotty benches in mint and peach (©Mathijs Labadie).

To learn more about Alcova at Milan Design Week 2023, click here. All images courtesy of The New Raw.

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