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Meet the designers transforming old office furniture into works of art for UPCYCLE: Office Furniture Reimagined

UPCYCLE: Office Furniture Reimagined on 19 and 20 April 2024 at Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront will showcase how design has the potential to shape a more conscious workspace as artists and designers exhibit a new life for office furniture.

Congolese artist Patrick Bongoy, sisters Viveka and Rucita Vassen of Studio Ananta, Nisha and Justus Van der Hoven of Hoven Design, and Laurie Wiid of Wiid Design have been tasked by global design and build company Tétris to create an artwork or installation using donated office furniture items in a direct response to the current office ecosystem that sees furniture often end up in landfills. Their four pieces will be showcased alongside Tétris’s furniture upcycling projects presented by Amaury Watine, Creativity and Innovation Director Tétris EMEA; Adrian Davidson, Design Director Tétris EMEA; and two Senior Interior Designers from Tétris South Africa, Helen Wentzel and Tshepiso Lesufi.

The team of designers representing Tétris is stacked with international talent. An acclaimed figure in architecture, interior design, space planning and workplace consulting, Davidson has more than 25 years’ experience in designing luxury eco-lodges, retail and premium workplaces. Before joining Tétris he completed Klein JAN, the award-winning restaurant in the Karoo in the Western Cape for Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik Van Der Westhuizen.

Watine has an extensive background as a product and space designer with particular interest in innovation, trends and technological developments. His work for Scaleway, a French cloud computing and web company, reflects a forward-thinking approach to space design focused on the end user experience.

Flying the flag for South African design will be Helen Wentzel and Tshepiso Lesufi from Tétris South Africa. Wentzel has more than 30 years’ design experience in the commercial, residential, and retail sectors, where she uses her love of design and attention to detail to create spaces that people find rewarding. From the Pepsico HQ in Johannesburg, to curating the selection of African art for the Roche Johannesburg informal collaboration spaces, Wentzel has an incredible knowledge of local design and materials.

Lesufi has more than 18 years’ experience in retail and corporate design. With an interest and joy in local design and craft that infuses her work, Lesufi recently completed work for NBA in South Africa and Ethiopia where she worked with teams to repurpose and refurbish 65% of existing office furniture and fittings to create dynamic workspaces that playfully include sustainability best practice principles.  

Each of the designers and artists, chosen by the Tétris team based on their body of work and reputation in the industry, play a critical role in shaping what the future could be and imagining new possibilities for the workspace. The brief was simple: create an installation or art piece from disused office furniture, and then use this creative moment as the foundation to define what ‘the future of work’ may be – functional and practical, or abstract and fantastical.

Wiid is well-versed in the art of using unconventional materials in his work. The founder and lead designer of Wiid Design, a Cape Town-based product design studio with a catalogue ranging from furniture, lighting and tableware to collectible objects, Wiid is an expert at finding the niche between high-end and sustainable product design.

The majority of Wiid Design’s pieces are made using cork, the result of a decade-long experimentation with the material. This has seen Wiid continually push the boundaries of the material to achieve a number of world firsts – including the world’s largest cork pendant light, and a cork cabinet. For UPCYCLE, Wiid will be creating a sculptural birdhouse using almost 30 old office dustbins in combination with cork, steel and concrete. 

Studio Ananta is a Cape Town-based design studio committed to fostering a circular economy and creating sustainable, ethical and eco-conscious products. Named as part of Design Indaba’s cohort of Emerging Creatives in 2023, sisters Viveka and Rucita Vassen founded Ananta during lockdown in 2020 as a brand that collaborates with craft communities to develop functional art pieces while creating economic empowerment. Studio Ananta’s fantastical beaded creations, characterised by colour and bold patterns, are designed by the duo and crafted in collaboration with skilled artisan communities, such as the beaders at Monkeybiz.

‘We are thrilled to be participating in Tétris’s UPCYCLE exhibition which allows us the opportunity to explore how creativity, colour and craft can be used to reimagine the future of workspaces,’ commented Viveka and Ructia. ’As designers we are excited to explore the power of creativity to revolutionise workspaces to be playful and joyful environments that nurture individuals, spark curiosity and foster innovation, ultimately opening a world of possibilities.’

Acclaimed Congolese artist Patrick Bongoy is a fierce advocate for using art to give new life to discarded materials. Currently exhibiting his latest work in a solo exhibition at Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, Bongoy – who was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to South Africa in 2013 – focuses his work on environmental degradation and the resultant effect this has on human movement and access to resources. Using materials such as disused rubber, Bongoy creates new life and symbolism with his artworks, making him the perfect contributor to the UPCYCLE project.

‘The concept of the workplace has undergone significant changes over the past few decades, and the future promises to bring more transformation,’ says Bongoy, whose project will involve developing an artwork that helps workers lower their stress and anxiety and boost their performance. ‘As technology continues to advance and global connectivity increases, the way employees interact with their workplaces will also evolve.’

Lastly, Nisha and Justus Van der Hoven’s unconventional and multidisciplinary architecture, interior design, film and exhibition studio Hoven will bring its experimental approach to the UPCYCLE exhibition. By combining their overlapping interests, the duo has shaped a unique process in their approach to projects and imagining new possibilities within an African context – particularly with regards to workspaces. The Van der Hovens have previously been involved in the architectural and interior design of workspaces such as Workshop17’s The Bank, Firestation, Kloof Street and Tabakhuis buildings, where they rethought the future of the physical, digital and experiential workspace and developed new space typologies designed for flexibility, variety and choice.

After the launch event, the exhibition will be open to the public from 19-20 April 2024. There is a student-focused day on 19 April and a walkabout with the artists and designers on Saturday 20 April at 11h00, which will be led by Heath Nash of Circular Squared. A designer and serial social entrepreneur, Nash has been ardently advancing the notion of waste as value since 2004. The Head of Sustainable Design at Circular Squared, a non-profit that champions circular economic thinking, and the founder of Our Workshop, a shared upcycling and design studio in Langa, Nash is committed to social engagement and circular design in all his work.

While reimagining office furniture may not solve all the sustainability issues connected to office fit-outs and workspaces, by encouraging circular design solutions for furniture, the industry can initiate fruitful dialogues about new approaches to the workspace.

Title UPCYCLE: Office Furniture Reimagined

Date 19-20 April 2024

Venue Makers Landing, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Opening hours 10h00-21h00, Friday-Saturday

Cost Free

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