In a new experimental group exhibition at Copenhagen Contemporary, the Danish capital’s international art center, Reset Materials — Towards Sustainable Architecture presents the building materials of tomorrow. At the intersection of art and architecture, the exhibition explores the future of architecture through ten innovative works and offers a critical comment on the way we build today. Reset Materials is the result of a unique collaboration between Copenhagen Contemporary and the Danish Association of Architects. The exhibit celebrates Copenhagen’s designation as World Capital of Architecture 2023.
Reset Materials investigates the potential application of biogenic, renewable, and recycled materials in the construction of new buildings. The exhibition asks several probing questions: “Will our buildings in the future be constructed out of fungi, nettles, and recycled plastic? Can we cultivate bricks like we do crops? And how will sustainable materials change our understanding of architectural beauty and values?”
Ten interdisciplinary teams, made up of architects, artists, and manufacturers, have each worked with a specific material category to present their vision of post-carbon architecture. The teams/materials are: Tree, Plastics, Earth, Hempcrete, Silicon, Monoblock, Straw, Biocement, Mycelium, and Nettle, Hemp, Flax, and Eelgrass. Each team experimented with the aesthetic, constructive, and ecological potential of their respective materials. As a result, a series of tactile fragments work to engage the senses: “The warmth of floating panels of rammed earth meets the crisp transparency of recycled medical equipment. The roughness of hemp, lime and water sprayed on a surface meets the softness of an eelgrass seat and the smooth reflective surface of a silicon glazed tile,” says Contemporary Copenhagen.
In one presentation at Reset Materials, architect Anders Lendager and artist Honey Biba Beckerlee experiment with waste from the extraction of silicon, an element that is found everywhere in nature. Silicon is widely used in making electronic circuits and solar cells and in the process a large part is wasted. “Lendager and Beckerlee investigate how silicon can be used in dust form to create new aesthetic expressions such as ceramics,” says Contemporary Copenhagen. “[They consider] how the substance can solve technical challenges in construction, such as compressed building blocks and screeds.” In another presentation, the potential for using the fungal material mycelium in sustainable acoustic solutions is explored.
Construction accounts for nearly 40% of the global CO2 footprint — this human activity is greatly exacerbating the climate emergency. The production and wastage of materials are significant factors: a radical rethink of how the materials necessary for construction are sourced and utilized is required. “In order to allow ourselves to continue to build in the future, it's essential that we prioritize experimentation with new materials, recycling, and innovative architectural approaches that promote sustainability,” says Lars Autrup, director of the Danish Association of Architects.
Reset Materials — Towards Sustainable Architecture is at Contemporary Copenhagen until 28 September 2023.