Upcycling is the practice of repurposing unwanted or underused items into new products with added value and less environmental impact, Architect and designer Yasmine Mahmoudieh‘s exceptional works of structural art and furniture are a testament to the seemingly limitless possibilities for discarded waste when combined with innovative vision.
Mahmoudieh is an architect, interior designer, and digital entrepreneur who has won awards for her significant contributions to the field of design. She is at the forefront of what the future of innovative and eco-friendly hotel design should look like: a creative, multi-sensory, and versatile atmosphere with beautiful stories told through surfaces, furniture, and lighting; using authentic materials with small carbon footprints and easy-to-use, visionary yet often invisible technology.
The London and Milan-based impact designer and creator of the “Flow” chair sat down to discuss 3D printing of plastic and mycelium, building an eco-sustainable luxury hotel, and her upcoming exhibit at the Venice Biennale of Architecture.
There are lots of artists and creatives doing similar work. What makes you different?
Mahmoudieh: I have always looked towards the future of design, which I believe sets me apart from thousands of artists and designers around the world.
Where did the idea of using plastic for art and architecture come from?
Mahmoudieh: We have a responsibility as creatives to address global issues in unique ways. I ask myself what ways can I have the greatest impact during my lifetime? Plastic pollution in the oceans is a serious problem. Since we can’t get rid of it, we might as well put it to good use. While 3D printing has been used previously to create plastic art, it has yet to be implemented in the building industry. I share this insight with hotel chains in an effort to motivate and facilitate their transition.
Can you tell us about Flowniversum?
Mahmoudieh: It is my submission for the Design Miami/Basel 2022 exhibition. This installation represents the continuous flow of the universe as a wave. The transformation of the wave into beautiful vases and chairs symbolizes infinite possibilities. It will be available later this year as a part of my forthcoming Metamorphosis 1–4 NFT series.
The limited edition Flowniversum Flow chair and stool/table are entirely 3D printed from plastic waste and feature an oceanic colour gradient. This revolutionary and timeless design is non-toxic and mimics the body’s natural ebb and flow. The original “Flow” chair was a finalist in the Urban and Public Design category at the Ro Guiltless Plastic 2022 exhibition, held during Milan Design Week, and the sole recipient of the prestigious award for smart furniture in 2021. We have received inquiries from museums wishing to display it for their art patrons.
How is the Metaverse helping you achieve your goals?
Mahmoudieh: The Metaverse fascinates me because of how it merges the virtual and real worlds. Some refuse to accept it, claiming it’s all terrible because they are scared that it will make humanity lose touch with reality. But, as I often say, let us use technology to make our lives easier where needed.
One good example is the transition from hand drawing to computer-aided drawing after hundreds of years. In comparison to the traditional approach of manual drafting, CAD reduces the time-consuming process of drawing each line on paper to a few mouse clicks.
Metaverse is an incredible tool to instantly share visionary ideas, perhaps not yet possible in physical reality, with millions of people around the world. If I want to make my idea of a sustainable luxury hotel brand renowned worldwide, it will take me about ten years to build a chain of hotels. But if I had a virtual hotel in the Metaverse running in parallel, I could be “global” from day one. I believe that Apple or Google will come up with much smaller and smarter glasses than the bulky Oculus still used for VR to make it more user-friendly.
What are your plans for next year’s exhibition at the Biennale?
Mahmoudieh: We’re bringing something incredible to Venice. The exhibit will be called “Metamorphosis” and will re-imagine a solution to the existing issue of ocean plastic and look towards the future of material innovation through mycelium. The name alludes to my vision to begin the exhibition with ocean plastics reimagined as various structures that then transform into mycelium-based forms, representing a transition from the past towards the future.
Mycelium is the growing root of a fungus that can be used to make furniture, food, fashion, and architecture. It is a renewable resource that can be grown in just a few days. It is also biodegradable, which means it will decompose naturally over time. This material is long-lasting, lightweight, fire-resistant, and can be recycled repeatedly. Mycelium can be used in place of plastic in a variety of applications. Some American businesses are already replacing Styrofoam and other harmful plastics with mycelium. This substance emits oxygen and is carbon-negative rather than carbon-neutral. This microorganism is the future.
My goal is to get architects to stop using the same old methods and start being creative with their resources. I want to show the world that this material can be used to create anything the mind can imagine in the arts and architecture.
Experience Yasmine Mahmoudieh’s “Metamorphosis” exhibit at Biennale Architettura 2023: “The Laboratory of the Future” in Venice, Italy, starting May 20, 2023.