You’re a startup with high hopes of expansion; you want an office that is adaptable, collaborative and changeable. The only space available is a cube in a high-rise building with four walls that echo. Two students from the EINA University School of Design and Art in Barcelona may have the answer to your problem.
“At university, we began to look into possible changes in the concept of offices,” says Caterina Vianna, the co-creator of MyEcoWall, an acoustic-insulated space separator designed to make office environments safe and versatile. “There is an increasing trend towards setting offices in open spaces, but they have to be versatile, pleasing to the eye and able to adapt to changes of the moment, new staff and on-going projects. Our challenge was to suggest a way to improve workspace ecologically and environmentally.”
MyEcoWall, which recently won two awards at the biannual Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge – a contest that envisions products that can “perpetually cycled” – gives companies the flexibility to adapt, retool, relocate, grow or reduce in size.
Did we mention it’s made out of mushroom?
“Mushroom is a revolutionary material,” says Caterina. “When we discovered it was classified as a Cradle to Cradle material, we knew immediately that it was made for our project.” The biomaterials startup Ecovative produced the main material, “Mycoboard”, which is constructed from mycelium (part of a fungus). The students combined it with recyclable aluminium (“It’s ideal for profiles”), cork and wool (“It has great acoustic insulating properties and colour options”).
Designed to eliminate the waste that businesses produce when relocating or redesigning their offices, each piece of the wall is entirely replaceable, reusable or biodegradable. The judging panel, which included sustainability and strategy experts from Target, Ford Motor Company, The C2C Institute and Arconic, awarded it ‘best student project” and “best use of aluminium”.
Caterina and her co-creator, Ferran Zaragoza, who have previously designed a sustainable children’s bike and public bathroom, now hope to produce the wall for sale or lease. “We would love to be able to turn it into a commercial product,” says Caterina. “Our next step is to make a prototype on a 1:1 scale, then look for a collaboration with an interested company to market it.”
Inspired by their upbringings (Caterina grew up in the polluted city of Sao Paulo and Ferran in the fresh air of the Barcelona mountains), both hope to make their home country more eco-conscious. “When I was growing up, I had daily contact with the idiosyncrasies of a metropolis; its pollution, noise, and lack of sensitivity for the problems of coexistence,” says Catherine. “Sustainable design is still new in Spain, so we have a lot of work to do.”