Eco-friendly Foam Furniture by ÉCAL

Swiss design school ÉCAL (École cantonale d’art de Lausanne) has introduced a flat-pack furniture collection aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the furniture industry.

Called UPS, an acronym for Under Pressure Solutions, the line of lightweight furniture and decorative items is constructed from thin, compressed sheets of porous cellulose sponge. The biodegradable and renewable material expands up to 10 times its original size on contact with water to reach its final form.

The grow-at-home products must be soaked by consumers and then left to dry and harden. The result is sturdy, self-supporting furniture that can outperform conventional plastic foam in terms of durability, says the team behind the design.

Inspired by Italian architect-designer Gaetano Pesce’s UP5 chair, made in 1969 from polyurethane foam that self-expands when unpacked, UPS was initially an applied research project. Conducted over a two-year period beginning in 2021, by five industrial designers teaching at ÉCAL — Camille Blin, Christophe Guberan, Anthony Guex, Chris Kabel and Julie Richoz — it focused on materials that are capable of occupying a fraction of their volume, then reconfiguring themselves without mechanical assembly.

The team evaluated more than 150 materials, including cork, latex and luffa, ultimately settling on cellulose sponge made from wood residues. The development of prototypes, based on numerous experiments that were carried out beforehand, highlighted the material’s versatility and strength, demonstrating its potential as a sustainable alternative for furniture production.

The final products, which include chairs, tables, vases, lampshades, wine racks and more, were presented at Milan Furniture Fair, April 16-21.

You Might Also Like