Sustainability exhibition Circular Futures: Next Gen shows how waste can be upcycled into luxe design


SINGAPORE – A new exhibition titled Circular Futures: Next Gen at the National Design Centre showcases a range of tech-driven designs that are reusable and eco-friendly from concept to finished product.

Taking pride of place at the exhibition – which is produced by digital art and technology start-up Artacia and ends on April 9 – is the Chandelion, a spherical chandelier inspired by the humble dandelion.

Approach it and you will see that the structure, which measures 1.5m in diameter, is made up of 153 empty perfume bottles placed at the ends of slim, tubular spokes made from recycled aluminium cans with tiny LED bulbs at the tip.

The chandelier project is just one of many designs being showcased by Architectural Intelligence Lab or AirLab, a multidisciplinary research laboratory established at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in Somapah Road.

Led by Professor Carlos Banon, AirLab combines additive manufacturing – also known as 3D printing – with parametric design (algorithm-based design) to reduce wastage and create new aesthetics in architecture.

The stunning Chandelion embodies an important message that the organisers of Circular Futures: Next Gen want to get across: Circularity – making reusable products via a process which is environmentally friendly from start to finish – concerns everyone, not just businesses or governments.

Also called “circular systems” or the “circular economy”, the concept is also key in prolonging the lifespan in the coming years of Singapore’s only offshore landfill for the nation’s trash, the Semakau Landfill in Semakau Island.

The show’s organisers assert that it is now possible to push the boundaries of design and sustainability to go from zero waste to exploring circular systems, emerging technologies and potential solutions.

To stage the exhibition, Artacia’s founder and curator Avantika Malhotra collaborated with SUTD, AirLab and formAxioms, a research laboratory in SUTD which experiments with blockchain, as well as virtual, augmented and extended realities (VR, AR and XR).

“I think the message is that everyone has a role to play,” says Ms Malhotra, who founded the local curatorial studio, which partners with artists and designers, in July 2019.

Involved with the arts for over 25 years in different capacities, the 52-year-old was also an art lecturer at Reading University in Berkshire in the United Kingdom and has a post-graduate diploma in Asian Art from the British Museum.

“While the exhibition showcases how designers are using technology and innovation to convert waste materials into beautiful functional products and create sustainable solutions, the story does not end here.

“We all have a collective responsibility to take this forward,” she says. “We need to start accepting and supporting these products so that everyone involved is incentivised to continue developing sustainable solutions. This is what will create a truly sustainable cycle.”

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