Having spent a sunny morning walking the charming canal through Utrecht centre, the weather turned and we made our way to the Werkspoorkathedraal where MaterialDistrict was being held. We were met by a series of abstract industrial concrete forms running along the Amsterdam-Rhine canal, by Dutch Sculptor Ruud Kuijer, namely titled 'Water Works' - and from that point on it didn't stop raining.
Kuijer was interested in the expressive qualities of industrial and ordinary materials, using anything from iron and screw thread to carpet, rope, wood and concrete. Fitting then with the gigantic Werkspoorkathedraal approaching, an industrial work shed for building trains and bridges - turned - venue for the material innovations conference.
MaterialDistrict brought together exhibitions and talks from people working with all kinds of materials and processes, some age-old and rightfully being woven back into the everyday, others totally innovative and possible only due to new technologies that have come about in the last decade. My favourite talks came from PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) where they promote sustainable and circular forest management; wood being arguably the best biomaterial on Earth if we treat forests with respect. Also, from artist and designer Basse Stittgen, who works with lesser used materials such as blood or lignin to bind non/organic compounds. Stittgen’s work with biopolymers runs parallel with our own research at DeakinBio, and it was great to share our materials in this context; seemingly delicate against the arched steel surround; the deep algae blue of our Cyalith cutting through the natural pastels that are usually inherent to bio-products.
Blog post written by Sunny Vowles