Barcelona Cultura

"Material and Materfad have realised that now is the time to move from designing for recycling to designing from recycling" Javier Peña, scientific director of MATERFAD

Javier Peña has a doctorate in Chemical Sciences from the Polytechnic University of Barcelona (UPC) in 2000 and is currently the general director of ELISAVA School of Design and Engineering of Barcelona. Since 2008, he has been the scientific director of MATERFAD, the Materials Center of Barcelona. He has focused his research on the new functional materials and in the selection of these in the design process, as well as conducting doctoral theses and publishing various articles of research in international journals.

What is Materfad and what are the main services it provides?

Materfad, the Materials Centre of Barcelona, is an innovation support centre promoted by FAD (Fostering Arts and Design) with the collaboration of Elisava, which bases its knowledge on advanced materials as drivers of creativity, research, development and innovation, and is also a sensorial platform for creativity. It offers tailor-made services in which material plays the leading role: effective selection of materials for all types of projects, technical, environmental and social consultancy, dissemination of knowledge through books, exhibitions and conferences, connector for technology transfer, platform for creativity, and so on.

What role does Materfad play in the Disseny Hub Barcelona? What role would you like it to play in the future?

Materfad connects and adds value. It connects companies, disciplines, projects, departments, people and hopes through the cross-cutting nature of the subject and the material. It adds value by generating knowledge, disseminating it and applying it in a cross-cutting way in projects, products, services and systems that better our environment and well-being.

In the near future I would like the significance of Materfad to be completely integrated into the DHUB, positioning the centre and Barcelona as a leader in the circularity of knowledge. A basic example of this is the potential and singularity of having a totally integrated documentation centre where knowledge acquires the material dimension and thus, at the same time, the energy dimension. A challenge.

On 18 September Materfad launched the ‘Future Woods. Earth and Mars’ exhibition at the DHUB. What can you see in this showcase?

Seeing, or the sense of sight, is just one of our senses, but we have more. At the exhibition you can see, touch, hear and smell materials that predict a hopeful, exciting future. A future which, through materials such as wood (organic material, mainly cellulose and lignin), we are already seeing is starting to reinvent itself through innovation, sustainability and design. The exhibition has been commissioned by the team from the Master’s in Design through New Materials, which is jointly organised by Elisava and Materfad and is one more example of the activity this materials centre has developed to promote training, research and knowledge dissemination about materials.

The concept circular design is being talked about both in this exhibition and in other environments. What is it and what role can materials play in it?

Circular design is a step towards abandoning the take-make-dispose pattern of linear growth and replacing it with the idea of regenerative, lasting sustainability that maintains value after use, integrating the logic of economic systems, which is where it converges perfectly with the circular economy. Like in the circular economy, the role of materials is fundamental in circular design. Material and Materfad have realised that now is the time to move from designing for recycling to designing from recycling. Designing from recycling calls for synergies between all those involved in a project, including engineers, designers and environmental impact analysts, which is the key to effectively establishing a circular economy model of materials that complies with the goals set out by the European Union and guarantees essential economic viability. We are living in a time, in an era when for better or for worse material governs energy (despite being one and the same).

How do you see the design sector today, not only on a professional level, but also in terms of schools, festivals, creativity, and so on?

I see it as increasingly creative, cross-cutting, synergic, collaborative, connected and essential, but I also see it as more diluted and lacking the energy required to make society sit up and take notice. That means the drive to say here I am, I need points of reference, I need my epigraph, my space, my window where I can share ideas and develop them without being subordinated, I need interlocutors. Barcelona’s personality is linked to design and Barcelona is a true hub of training in design. Sometimes this pairing is synonymous with comfort and at other times with opportunity. Let’s look at it as an opportunity.

How do you see the role of public administration in boosting the sector? Do you think it plays an active role?

It does not play a big enough part, and there are weighty arguments to confirm this. There is no national design strategy. The design sector is not included in the Spanish National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020. The state has not defined its position in the science, technology and innovation system or in its contribution to innovative products, services and systems. The real economic impact of design in relation to both GDP and other European countries is unknown. Knowledge is fundamental to taking action and finding a place for design.

What is your favourite object because of its good design?

I don’t have one. Faced with this question I like to think of Nikola Tesla as the designer of electricity. And to give you an example of good design like this, we can recall wireless energy transmission and the dream of free energy.

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