The invitation by Arts Council Malta to represent Malta with my sustainable design project, SORĠI, at The WantedDesign Manhattan in June turned out to be not only a wonderful opportunity, but also a defining moment.
For those needing some background, SORĠI is an ongoing research project that seeks to merge circular design and sustainability with high-end furniture. In fact, we were representing Malta in Manhattan for Eco Solidarity.
While the project is ongoing, the first phase has resulted in the creation of an outdoor furniture collection for public spaces. The six benches that we created were inspired by six buildings that are the result of the local construction frenzy and are intended as a statement about the choices that society is making today and a suggestion for tomorrow’s actions.
Created entirely using recycled construction waste - such as limestone, broken terrazzo, marble offcuts and fragments of glass - the benches tell the story of the building that inspired it, highlighting the need to find a solution for the amount of material waste that keep accumulating on the Islands. The project promotes circularity via recycling, thus raising awareness on environmental issues within a larger audience.
SORĠI received very positive feedback from its beginning. The first piece of the collection, Rita was exhibited in London and received the Spotlight prize at the Decode competition in Hungary. It was also one of three start-ups in the Sustainable Cities Category that was selected to participate in the Circular by Design Challenge, with the possibility of developing the concept in Luxembourg.
But our proudest moment was certainly being selected for ECO Solidarity to represent Malta with my studio to take part in the physical exhibition at the Javits Center in New York. The exhibition was presented by International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and WantedDesign Manhattan.
SORĠI has presented many challenges, including whether this nature of project should be based in Malta or elsewhere. Large-scale developments unfortunately remain the rule in Malta, promoting short-term wins instead of the importance of public spaces and preservation of our architectural heritage.
Our experience as exhibitors at ECO Solidarity, which included more than 700 booths, thousands of exhibitors and an even higher number of visitors, has strengthened the team’s confidence to persist with the project. There, the team had the opportunity to speak, connect and network throughout the trade show with companies and other professionals.
We exhibited alongside top designers showcasing high-end collections, with our booth for Eco Solidarity positioned as an emerging generation of European designers who are taking a personal responsibility for climate change by finding innovative solutions to environmental concerns. Particularly noteworthy was the Austrian company EOOS NEXT, which exhibited their development of a passive urine separation technology that promotes safe sanitation among those who don’t have access. Definitely not the theme that we were expecting to see in this beautiful glass building in the middle of Manhattan! Even more interestingly, the project is open-source and can downloaded and produced anywhere around the world, so the product isn’t motivated by profit at all.
SORĠI is motivated by the world’s need to understand that we are running out of our natural resources, destroying our heritage and creating irreversible damage to our planet. I hope we understand we don’t have another planet Earth available. I believe the leaders of tomorrow need to act for a better good that serves humanity, instead of serving developers.
For me personally, it took being part of this exhibition to start believing once again in the values that SORĠI represents. It is important to see socially-engaging projects being placed on a par with high-end furniture, merging the two by creating designs that contribute to the circular economy and the community. I believe this can be achieved while being aesthetically pleasing and by reaching market value, and this is exactly what I plan for SORĠI in Malta and abroad.