During Milano Design Week 2024, ÉCAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne presented a series of foam furniture that grows in size. Called UPS – Under Pressure Solutions, the collection is made from compressed sheets of biodegradable and renewable cellulose sponge that are small enough to fit into flat parcels. 

Using cellulose sponge as base material for the furniture solves the shipping issue of furniture and also requires no mechanical assembly. It addresses the challenge posed in the transportation of goods, especially in the field of industrial design. Likewise, it minimizes the environmental and climactic impact of purchasing furniture. 

From their compressed sizes, the pieces in the UPS collection need only to be moistened or submerged in water to allow them to expand up to 10x their sizes and reconfigure themselves. Once water is squeezed out, the sponge is left to dry and harden to create furniture that is strong enough to hold objects and even carry the weight of a person.

Cellulose used in the collection comes from wood offcuts that are not only flexible but also strong. They are then chemically dissolved and regenerated into sheets using the same method applied in making viscose and other cellulose textiles. Salt is also added to give the sponge its many pores and enhance its water absorption. 

The UPS collection includes several stools, a star-shaped base for a coffee table, side tables, a bottle or wine rack, a chair, shelving, and a pendant lamp. It also has smaller items including a bowl, a paper bin, vase, trays, a toy, and more. Once the pieces have reached the end of their life, they can easily be recycled or reused as compost as they break down in soil within a matter of months.

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Images courtesy of Under Pressure Solutions