The 72-year-old Finnish company Artek helped define midcentury Modern furniture with Alvar Aalto’s sinuous bent-plywood chairs and stools. But last April, under the creative direction of British design czar Tom Dixon, it turned to a new material for its pavilion at the Milan Furniture Fair, a wood-plastic composite called ProFi, developed by the Finnish paper company UPM.
Extruded from cast-off paper and plastic used in the manufacturing of self-adhesive labels, ProFi was being marketed commercially as a durable, waterproof deck material ideal for patios and playgrounds. Artek’s materials researchers liked its opaque matte surface and the fact that it’s made completely of recycled materials—which also lends ProFi a unique variegated color. “It’s white, but it has these tiny speckles of light blue and dark green and so forth,” says Ville Kokkonen, Artek’s research and development manager. “And when you step back it becomes blurry. It doesn’t have one really consistent particular color to it.”
These qualities appealed to Shigeru Ban, the architect of the Milan pavilion and an expert in the tectonic application of ecological materials like paper, cardboard, and bamboo. Ban used not only the planks but also the L-shaped pieces of ProFi included in the packaging to form the structural framework of the elongated pavilion, disassembled after the fair and now on display in Helsinki through September 23.
Extruded paper and plastic left over from the manufacturing of self-adhesive labels
ProFi planks are sturdy, lightweight, long-lasting, and nontoxic. They can be sawed, drilled, and sanded like wood. The material is water-resistant and has a nonskid surface even when wet.
ProFi is an alternative to wood for patio decks, playgrounds, boardwalks, and other high-traffic outdoor areas.
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FI-00101 Helsinki, Finland