This is Wasted, a project curated by Arts Co that was part of year’s London Design Festival and was located in the tunnel connecting the Underground to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).
Architect Ian Douglas-Jones and designer Ben Rousseau lined the tunnel with the foil-lined paper sacks that tea to Britain from other countries, such as Argentina. As the architect explains, “Wasted showcases the throw away by-product of our penchant for tea, recomposed along with other disposables to form an immersive and jewel-like, semiprecious environment.”
The “other disposables” include fire-hoses that droop down the centre of the space and help define a seating area; the tunnel becomes a space to sit and contemplate, not just a conduit for movement.
But lest the project exist solely to make visitors question their drinking habits and the waste created from partaking in afternoon tea, it also “forms the launch of E&K Arts, a range of everyday, beautiful products created in collaboration with artists from waste.”
It’s pretty easy to see how this environment crafted from tea sacks is fitting for the launch of “chic, environmental products from reclaimed materials.” It utilizes a portion of the waste product unseen (foil liner) so that the origins of it are basically unknown. Douglas-Jones and Rousseau take their medium and sculpt an enchanting space that elevates the mundane into something special.
This subterfuge of a sort raises questions about luxury goods and their relationship to art and design. Elvin & Kresse’s (the E&K in E&K Arts) saddle bag — made from old fire hoses — goes for £99.00 ($165), hardly an inexpensive item but less than a comparable Louis Vuitton or Dior bag. Nevertheless, will cheap, recycled materials become the next mark of luxury, for their design as much as for their eco-sensitivity? Will the LV and Dior stamps lose favor to Freitag, E&K and others opting for recycled rubber over calfskin? In time perhaps, especially if their designs are as striking as Wasted.