Studio ThusThat is a collective of three designers, Kevin Rouff, Paco Böckelmann and Guillermo Whittembury. Graduates of the Royal College of Art in London, they explore the possibilities of materials by transforming industrial waste from mining and metallurgy industries, trying to create a sustainable approach to design.
Their work focuses on the reuse of secondary materials and shows the importance of keeping them in a circular loop. In a world of limited resources, the studio's research raises ecological awareness in the design scene.
Copper is, along with gold and silver, a metal that is found in its natural state. Its good electrical and thermal conductivity makes it a first-choice material in sectors such as construction, transport, energy and telecommunications.
If copper is a limited resource, it can be easily recycled. According to the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), 41.5% of the copper used in Europe comes from recycling.
Exploring the effects of heavy industrial waste, Studio ThusThat developed a low-carbon alternative to concrete from copper industry's waste. They focused on slag, the leftover impurities of the smelting process during copper purification, which can take two forms: sand and powder.
Studio Thus That’s research led to a black and resistant geopolymer that produces no CO2 during its formation and uses a limited amount of water, thus having a carbon footprint nearly 77% lower than cement. As a geopolymer, slag can be used as both a binder and an aggregate. Its high heat and impact resistance make it a material with a better durability than cement and can be used to create furniture and objects.
In 2019, the design studio found that some industrial aluminum production waste can be turned into new raw materials. They have been working particularly on the treatment of bauxite used for its alumina particles. The extraction process produces a highly alkaline toxic by-product, commonly known as red mud.
“Upwards of 150 million tons of red mud are produced every year, enough to stack in industrial barrels six times to the moon”, the designers explained. “Currently, it is left unused in giant pits around the world,” they added. “While these [giant pits] make for beautiful satellite images, the environmental costs are a given.”
Studio ThusThat designed “From Wasteland to Living Room”, a collection that results from the transformation of red mud into clay bodies, slip, glazes and concretes. Thanks to this research, they designed a whole set of tableware pieces as cups, bowls, plates, vessels and teapots.