Bio-Fold: A Circular Design Exploration with the FRAKTA Bag
From laundry and storage to gardening and transportation, few IKEA products have as many creative uses as the FRAKTA shopping bag. Therefore it was the perfect place to start experimenting with circular fabrication methods using everyday tools, biodegradable materials, and a touch of imagination.
How do we democratise the benefits of parametric design? How can we develop more sustainable furniture fabrication, using already existing everyday objects? Is it possible to grow and cast furniture from home?
These were some of the questions that architects Katya Bryskina and Tomás Clavijo set out to explore during their residency at SPACE10, as part of our collaboration with Strelka Institute. With a shared passion for sustainability, Katya and Tomás combined their expertise in parametric design and innovation strategy to imagine a new circular fabrication model. Specifically, they wanted to explore how the IKEA FRAKTA shopping bag might be used as a tool to grow, cast, and shape furniture using locally sourced, biodegradable materials.
From waste to material
Agricultural production disposes of great amounts of waste, in the form of vegetal fibres. On a global scale, these natural by-products show significant promise for the production of biodegradable composite materials, or simply biocomposites. Biocomposites are formed by mixing vegetal fibres with a natural binder — such as plant-based resin or bicarbonates — and compressing the material into a solid form. As a material, they are renewable, cheap, biodegradable and in many cases completely recyclable.
When communities are empowered with the right methods and tools, vegetal fibres can turn from ‘waste’ into ‘material’ – and become a cheap and locally sourced material for the production of everyday objects.
Katya and Tomás experimented with biodegradable binders and vegetal fibres to create materials that can be used for fabricating furniture. However, the perfect recipe for biocomposite furniture production is yet to be discovered. Therefore, we’ve decided to share our exploration with the world to take further. We invite you to choose your own materials and play along from home.
A good way to get to know biocomposites is to explore open-source materials’ libraries, such as Materiom, which provide ‘recipes’ from natural and easily available materials.
A circular assembly guide
To provide instructions for how to create furniture out of biocomposites, Katya and Tomás designed a step-by-step guide, using the FRAKTA shopping bag and everyday tools likely to be found in a regular home.
Bring out your toolbox
Unlike traditional IKEA assembly instructions, this guide doesn’t come with neat pre-prepared toolkits. The first thing to do is to make sure you have access to the necessary equipment and materials.
The next step is to transform FRAKTA into a sealable object that can be used as a cast. To do this we’ve outlined 12 steps for how to cut, fold, and glue the two bags, from start to finish.
Cast into shape
Finally, you’re ready to start the creation process. Simply follow the 7 steps for mixing the vegetal fibres and binders in FRAKTA, deflate the bag, shape your design, and let the biocomposites dry. The curing time depends on the binder, so before you remove the cast, make sure your furniture is completely solid.
The furniture produced in this way is made out of completely biodegradable material. To dispose of the furniture, simply treat it as you would with any other organic waste — head to your nearest biowaste station, or let it decompose in nature.
Design by FRAKTA
Using simple household tools and the ubiquitous FRAKTA bag means that this process could be used by anyone, anywhere, to create circular furniture from their own home. This opens up the opportunity to encourage truly democratic expansion of circular design. How could we scale up this process to create systemic change? With this question in mind, Tomás and Katya developed a concept and a folding logic for a parametric design platform.
Using this folding logic, they designed five furniture prototypes, including a chair, a shelving system, two tables, and a stool — each based on the dimensions of the reconstructed FRAKTA shopping bag.
Bio-Fold is not a recipe for transforming linear production into circular. Rather, we wish to highlight the opportunity for how everyday objects and materials — with a bit of imagination — can enable sustainable fabrication, use, and recycling of products.
Ultimately, we wish to invite others to challenge conventional uses for everyday objects, and inspire them to design for themselves. Only then can we truly explore the possibilities of decentralised fabrication, and spark a global transition to circular systems.
Katya Bryskina is an architect, artist, and computational designer. She combines digital fabrication and inspiration from biology to bring ecosystemic thought and aesthetics to the built environment.
Tomás Clavijo is an architect and innovation strategist, operating globally through the platform RAFT, where he combines hard facts and cultural strategies to create speculative models for the present.
Barkas is an independent brand studio, working with companies and people to design their strategy, brand, product and service. They challenge business as usual to bring clarity to an increasingly complex world.