Smart Matters

When it comes to new and exciting materials, manufacturers in Europe are answering the call with experimental and eco-friendly solutions. Take Marjan van Aubel’s Energy, a collection of glassware and porcelain, which recently won the DOEN Materiaalprijs. The objects use solar cell technology to harvest light energy from their immediate surroundings; that energy is collected by an electronic circuit in a cupboard that then becomes a battery to charge a mobile phone or power a light. In London, the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion was built with a tried-and-true biodegradable material by architects Herzog & de Meuron and the artist Ai Weiwei. “Cork is a natural material with wonderful haptic qualities, with the versa-tility to be carved, cut, shaped, and formed,” the architects say. Here is a sampling of the choices that architects and designers now have, but they should consider each material’s environmental impact, its per-formance, and contact the manufacturer for a life-cycle assessment.

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