Superuse Studios is a revolutionary design studio based in Rotterdam which has been at the leading edge of ecological thought and sustainability for several decades. Their work has pioneered thought about moving from the ‘green economy’ of the last few decades to a new “blue” economy – one in which commercial enterprise is organized according to ecological principles. The waste stream of one business becomes the source of raw materials for another, and so on. By creating ecological chains of activity, Superuse encourages a new way of thinking about business, urbanity and ecology.
Superuse began modestly, thinking about ways to reuse discarded materials and promote a kind of “superuse.” A table can always be reused as a table, but Superuse’s attention is focused on those waste products with no obvious secondary purpose or easy means to recycle themselves. One of Superuse’s most visible projects entailed the recycling of windmill blades. The structures themselves were so large and heavy that they defied efficient recycling.
However, Superuse found a way to repurpose them as playground equipment and they do quite well. The firm utilizes a design process which calls to rethink the basic functionality of a thing and understand how it could otherwise perform once it has served its initial life. The process doesn’t restrict itself to discarded building materials – it looks at all the resources (and waste streams) of the city in order to explore. Surplus food, energy, water, and traffic all become ground on which to rethink and redesign.
It has distilled this process into 16 different ‘flows’ that enter and exit buildings and cities. Each project begins with a mapping of these flows and subsequently an examination of where the flows interconnect. The ideal design solution, then, is one in which the flows intersect, overlap and take advantage of one another, thus leading to a wholly integrated design product.
We were lucky to spend some time with Jan Jongert on Social Design Insights, where he gave us a window in the incredible “blue” economy of the future.