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Generation Awake talks 'upcycling'

Do you think that 'upcycle' is just a fancy word for 'recycle'? Gian Marco Vitti of Italy's http://www.laboratoriolinfa.com/ (Laboratorio LINFA), a team of upcycling designers, would beg to differ with you. And he knows what he's talking about. Along with Luigi Cuppone, Raul S...

Do you think that 'upcycle' is just a fancy word for 'recycle'? Gian Marco Vitti of Italy's Laboratorio LINFA, a team of upcycling designers, would beg to differ with you. And he knows what he's talking about. Along with Luigi Cuppone, Raul Sciurpa and Federico Fiordigiglio, Gian Marco co-designed a collection of furniture made from 100 % reclaimed wood which was one of the winning entries to the European Commission's recently awarded Generation Awake Young Designers Contest. Competition participants, aged between 18 and 40, were asked to 'upcycle' new products - such as clothes, toys, artworks, jewellery or furniture - from waste materials. The winning entries included a children's playhouse made of cardboard and plastic bottles by Nikolai Kovachev from Bulgaria, a game designed from colourful plastic screw caps by Mathieu Collos and Cyril Rheims from France, an 'upcycled' chair that can be folded up into a suitcase, as well as Laboratorio LINFA's Sine qua non furniture collection. Speaking after the ceremony in Brussels, Gian Marco noted, 'We make upcycled furniture and it's not the same as recycled furniture. Upcycling is a more complex process. We are saving old wood from the dump and transforming it. We don't work for serial design. We make and produce small series or unique pieces or we personalise/customise products by the request of the client.' Recycling takes consumer materials and breaks them down so their base materials can be remade into a new consumer product, often of lesser quality. Meanwhile, upcycling does not involve breaking down the materials but refashioning or transforming them. The upcycled item is typically better or the same quality as the original. The Laboratorio LINFA team recovers pallets, fixtures, old furniture from the streets or other wood that is headed for the dump and uses it to make tables, seats, chairs, book shelves both for public and private spaces. Gian Marco elaborated on the design process. 'The main characteristic is that our collection is co-designed during participatory design workshops around Italy. They are like eco-design camps where the LINFA team lives and works with young designers and we design and create something new only with recycled material.' In relation to the 'circular economy', the buzz word of Green Week 2014 where the awards took place, Gian Marco noted, 'Our work is trying to find a method to create a circular economy but actually it's too hard in Italy. We are really a small team and a small reality. We don't create a real market, a real economy but we design some prototypes of furniture. Our dream is to work for green public procurement. However, it's a dream that's not happening in practice at the moment.' Gian Marco added, 'We work hard to make something sustainable. We want our work to meet public needs and produce goods for public spaces and not for a small group of private individuals who have a lot of money to spend on unique pieces of art. This type of design is for the gallery, not for the real world'. He concluded, 'We need the support of the institutions to make projects like ours large scale. We are too small to resolve all of the problems. We need to collaborate - all the way from the institution to the end user, but it's definitely a long road.'For more information, please visit: Green Week http://www.greenweek2014.eu/index.html Generation Awake http://www.generationawake.eu/en/