In Brick Lane in East London flipflops are on sale for £2.50 a pair. Because they are cheap and colourful they are popular, especially in developing countries, but they are also considered disposable, many tourists will only wear them for one holiday, they are pretty well indestructible and, as can be seen by the number that wash up on the beaches, they are part of the plastic problem that swirls round our oceans.
Giving some of these discarded flipflops a second life, Ocean Sole helped Kenyan artisans upcycle a million flipflops last year into colourful playful sculptures and toys with both environmental and entrepreneurial benefits, one of the star features of this year’s Architect@Work at the Truman Brewery just up the road from the shop selling them in Brick Lane.
Social responsibility is one of the themes running in Architect@Work with companies from the UK and Europe brining awareness of their latest designs for components and materials for the architectural profession.
On the materials front, Materialdriven displayed a fascinating exhibition of cladding, fabrics and other components made from seaweed, cow dung, ground chocolate, recycled plastic, chewing gum, algae and other sustainable raw materials – even sweat, with different textures and surface finishes feels including LEGO bricks for the partially sighted and tactile materials designed for those with autism.
And, always a highlight, World Architects’s Project Wall displayed new and innovative projects including Ian Ritchie’s Royal College of Music in London and the the Saarpolygon in Ensdorf with a lighting design by Lichtvision and architecture by Pfeiffer sanchse architekten.
Given the focus, I trust all those plastic glasses used for soft drinks are recycled – there are still some problems we have to solve…..