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Sponge Pop-Up Furniture: Just Add Water

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A team of industrial designers has created a revolutionary furniture collection that redefines the concept of custom furniture design. Prototyped to dramatically transform from flat sheets into fully functional objects, this collection requires no tools for assembly. The project, named Under Pressure Solutions (UPS), was born out of a desire to address the challenges of online commerce and shipping processes, particularly for furniture, which often result in cumbersome, expensive, and wasteful practices.

Inspired by Gaetano Pesce’s iconic “Up 5” chair, the UPS team, consisting of industrial designers and ÉCAL teachers, embarked on an experimental research project to explore new possibilities. Led by Camille Blin, Christophe Guberan, Anthony Guex, Chris Kabel, and Julie Richoz, the team sought to create furniture that could be easily transported and assembled by the end-user, without the need for specialized tools or complicated instructions.

Furniture Design

The key innovation behind the UPS collection lies in its use of cellulose sponge as the primary material. This biodegradable sponge can be compressed and dried flat, making it compact enough to fit into a regular envelope. When activated with water, the sponge expands ten times its size and hardens into its final form, which is more durable than traditional plastic-based foams. This unique material allows the furniture to adapt to the user’s needs, with the ability to spring back to its original shape with a simple spray of water.

In developing the UPS collection, the team tested 56 different materials before settling on cellulose sponge made with vegetal fibers, sodium sulphate crystals, softeners, and wood pulp. The result is a range of 16 unique objects, including stools, chairs, wine racks, and more, all designed to be both functional and sustainable.

Displayed recently at Milan Design Week, the UPS collection showcases the potential of custom furniture design that is not only innovative but also environmentally conscious. By utilizing materials that are biodegradable and easy to transport, UPS is leading the way in reimagining the future of furniture manufacturing and consumption.

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