CW Interiors |
In sight | January 2014

Material picks for 2014

CW INTERIORS takes a quick look at radical new materials and old materials infused with new properties to assess their potential in enabling fresh designs, or fulfilling old requirements in better ways.

Materials and technology complement design and enable creativity. So as we embark upon a new year, we decided to highlight some materials that we think would be big in 2014. CW Interiors gives you a heads up...

Flax is an annually renewable raw material, held together by the adhesive textile polypropylene. Austrian designer Martin Mostbock has made a Flax Chair from natural flax fibres taken from linseed crops, which are moulded into a three-dimensional form by pressing together multiple layers of the material. A great pick for eco-friendly material lovers, Architect Sanjay Puri recommends its use on walls, ceilings and paneling. It can be used as padding for acoustic treatments too. More creative ideas for using this material would be welcome in 2014!

Seaweed was a common construction material in Denmark for many centuries. On the small island of Lµs° in Denmark, architecture studio Vandkunsten has designed a new house that combines the traditional material with twenty-first century construction techniques. Seaweed insulates just as well as mineral insulation, is non-toxic and fireproof, and has an expected life of more than 150 years. Seaweed is a fantastic acoustic material and is CO2-reducing. Will architects in India explore this material in 2014?

Ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene (ETFE), a fluorine-based plastic, was designed to have high corrosion resistance and strength over a wide temperature range. ETFE resins are resistant to ultraviolet light. This wonder polymer, a transparent plastic related to Teflon, is replacing glass and plastic in some of the most innovative buildings being constructed today. Its selling points? It weighs just one per cent of glass, transmits more light, is a better insulator, and costs 24 to 70 per cent less to install. It´s also resilient (able to bear 400 times its own weight, with an estimated 50-year life-span), self-cleaning (dirt slides off its nonstick surface), and recyclable. ETFE has been used to design the Beijing National Stadium and Aquatics Center.

Concrete is a material whose qualities can be enhanced or adapted to need by using textiles or plastics or glass, offering numerous solutions for textures and translucency. LiTraCon, which is a trademark for a translucent concrete building material, has been gaining popularity in recent times. LiTraCon stands for ´light-transmitting concrete´ and is created by mixing concrete with glass and fibre optic strands. The optical fibers make up only four per cent of the mixture, meaning that blocks made from this material still have the ability to support load-bearing walls. The concrete comes in pre-cast blocks of different sizes and has been considered as possible sheathing for New York´s Freedom Tower.

Do you think we can go vernacular in 2014? Architect Sanjay Puri tells us, ´We are already designing an entire hotel in adobe and intend to use a lot of vernacular materials in the near future due to their tactile sensory perceptions as well as their sustainability.´ Treehugger architects are constantly experimenting with the use of mud in construction. They call it Earth Architecture. Architect Chitra Vishwanathan is known for her architecture with mud, while Architect Hafeez Contractor has also proposed a large scale project in mud.

Silicon is already in use in furniture as well as in other applications like washbasins and counters and is sure to see increased usage in future. Its easy maintenance and availability in bright colours make it very appealing. Artist Alessandro Ciffo has designed multi-coloured silicon furniture which has garnered much appreciation.

Right from floors to framed artwork, tiles have entrenched themselves in our spaces. What´s next? ´The next step would probably be that of making single piece counters for washbasins with formed edges, complete treads of different widths with nosings for staircases and other specific application tiles,´ says Puri. Movement-sensitive tiles embedded with acrylic fibre-optic channels that transfer light from one point to another are another innovation waiting to be used. They are available in the market as SensiTile.

Steel has always been an important construction material since a few decades in the construction industry, especially for tall structures, and shall continue to be so. Steel can be recycled and is thus cost effective. Steel buildings can be produced and engineered faster than conventional buildings. Pre-engineered steel has cut down the cost and labour involved in using this material. It can be shipped to the location and joined together to make a strong structure.

There are more advantages to consider: Steel buildings are better able to withstand natural disasters; termites, rodents and insects cannot house in steel; since steel is lighter but has more tensile strength, it can be used with other construction materials if needed. These steel structures have more flexibility as compared to other building materials. Components can be transported easily, and you can even add space by extending the structure. ´Steel will evolve in new terms, there will be thinner and stronger sections with wider applicability,´ says Architect Sudhir Diwan.

Innovation and creativity are the hallmark of great architecture, not just in design but also in material usage. Technology makes it possible to re-engineer traditional materials and create new materials that may be better suited for current and future needs. We cheer the architects on as they step out of the box and experiment with new products and ideas!

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