UPCYCLE 2024: Turning Office Waste into Sustainable Designs

Discarded Office Furniture Transforms into Bespoke Art for the 2050 Workplace | UPCYCLE 2024

In a unique blend of sustainability and creativity, South Africa’s Maker’s Landing at the V&A Waterfront played host to a visionary exhibition from 19-20 April 2024, showcasing the potential of discarded office furniture transformed into bespoke art. The initiative, branded as UPCYCLE, is a collaboration involving leading entities such as Sanlam, global property advisory company JLL, and its interior design subsidiary Tétris Design and Build.

In the post-pandemic era, where hybrid work models have left a significant number of office desks vacant, the environmental cost of unused office furniture has become increasingly apparent. Notably, producing a single office chair emits about 72 kg of CO2 equivalent. In response to this challenge, UPCYCLE leverages the talents of local artists to reinterpret and repurpose these materials, thereby reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainability.

  • Sustainably UPCYCLEd plant shelf at Maker’s Landing, where office cans and containers are repurposed into plant pots for an array of green succulents and cacti.
  • The UPCYCLE Oxygen Farm Work Pod, showcasing a transparent cabin filled with lush greenery, highlighting innovative repurposing of office furniture.
  • Vibrantly UPCYCLEd chairs in blue, teal, and red hues, showcased under a metal frame as a part of the sustainable design exhibit at Maker’s Landing.
  • The UPCYCLE exhibit's towering floor lamp, ingeniously crafted from 82 repurposed bookshelves and 100 blue bins, a beacon of sustainability and creativity.

The exhibition featured works from prominent South African and African artists, including Patrick Bongoy, Laurie Wiid, and teams from Tétris, who used outdated Sanlam office furniture to create their pieces. Each artwork was evaluated and given a sustainability score based on the Tétris Sustainability Code, which encompasses considerations such as material use, air quality, and innovation in design.

Among the eye-catching installations was a chandelier made from repurposed dustbins and cassette tape fronds, a swing set crafted from old desk legs, and an Oxygen Farm Work Pod built from discarded Covid-19 desk dividers. This workspace of the future not only embodies a playground of possibilities but also a critical reflection on the lifecycle of office materials.

An innovative UPCYCLE display at Maker’s Landing, featuring an orange arched structure with circular cutouts filled with bamboo and greenery, above a piano-key decorated desk.
The arch of innovation: UPCYCLE’s eco-chic art installation featuring bamboo rings and verdant foliage, combining office refuse with natural elements to redefine workplace aesthetics.

Karl Socikwa, Group Executive of Market Development and Sustainability at Sanlam, highlighted the company’s commitment to sustainability and its proactive approach to repurposing office furniture. This project aligns with Sanlam’s broader goals of reducing waste and emissions while supporting local communities and fostering innovation.

This exhibition at Maker’s Landing is just the beginning of a broader vision to engage with local manufacturers and transform office furniture waste into new, marketable products, marking a significant step towards a sustainable and innovative future for office design.

A creative UPCYCLE sculpture at the V&A Waterfront exhibition, resembling a purple tentacled umbrella rising from a base of organic textures and adorned with colorful accents.
Sustainability reaches new heights with UPCYCLE’s towering tentacle sculpture, a medley of reclaimed materials and vibrant colors, symbolizing the growth of circular design.