Unexpectextures

Intentionally or not, each material conveys a given idea, emotion, reference. Whether the object’s creator agrees with the conveyed feeling, or whether a given material conveys the same feeling in the mind of the creator and the consumer is up for grabs. Potentially, the material may have been used because of how it is imagined to speak to the aspirations of a given place’s (hoped-for) clientele. Alternatively, it might also be that the low cost/great abundance of the material makes it an obvious choice for a given job. I would argue that the former is increasingly converging, as global tastes gradually coalesce and preferences for upmarket material are exported and adopted – marble columns, mahogany flooring, white wedding dresses, gold(-colored) iPhones, and so on. Despite this convergence on the less resource constrained end of the spectrum, behavior around the opposite end of the spectrum remains diverse and highly variable by context. Unsurprisingly, that’s where the interesting (to me, at least) behaviors tend to flourish.

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There are places that one reasonably expects to see synthetic grass. Such a list of places might include a putting green (in America, for example), or a statue garden in the lobby of a combination spa/restaurant (in China, for example). The server with whom I spoke was uncertain as to precisely why – that is, whether intentional or the result of subpar artistic direction or accounting error – there ended up being a surplus of artificial grass.

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The more interesting matter was that there was seemingly then a surfeit of synthetic grass at the disposal of this particular spa/hotel’s management to do with what they would. This speaks to the first element – the integration of a material into a place’s through repurposing to minimize its waste, albeit this example motivated primarily by aesthetic preferences of the management rather than functional need.  Hence, how grass ends up in urinals and under glass tabletops.

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This collection of brooms belongs to a crew of municipal maintenance staff on the other side of China, in the city of Chongqing (the team of owners is presently having a meal at the nearby sidewalk-based restaurant). Looking closer at them reveals how they speak to the second aspect: the repurposing of a material common within a given context into a new role.

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Their handles are based around a length of bamboo, many of which have been modified through the clever redeployment of materials. Some have been done in the spirit of visibility, such as those sporting short lengths of reflective safety tape wrapped around them. One has been swathed in adhesive labels – perhaps for durability purposes, or perhaps just for visual appeal. The bristles themselves are an even split between organic and synthetic materials – thin plastic strands are woven amongst bamboo branches and short sticks, and are bound to each other with the durable, metal-braided zip tie-like material that China’s post offices and wholesalers rely upon to hold their bundles and boxes together through any rough handling on their respective journeys.

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One final notable repurposing modification on several of the brooms is a slim, sharpened piece of metal, presumably once part of a razor blade. These days it is employed for cutting apart pieces of unwieldy refuse or skinning the rubber coating off of electrical wires that can conceal valuable copper.

Consider the ways in which surplus material reappear in repurposed/reimagined forms and applications in your context, and the genesis for those design decisions (Aesthetic? Functional? Both?).

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