Lamp-a-Terre: example of far-reaching circular thinking

For the Lamp-a-Terre, raw materials are literally found 'around the corner' (All images: BC Materials)

We all talk about circular thinking, sustainability and the use of local, bio-based materials. We found a great example of how to realise this in practice in the Lamp-a-Terre. It can not get much more sustainable and circular than with this lamp, which is the result of an intensive collaboration between Brussels-based BC Materials (of Architects & Studies and BC materials) and Micro Factory.

With the Lamp-a-Terre, raw materials are literally found ‘around the corner’. The base, for instance, consists of rammed earth recovered from construction sites in Brussels. The lampshade itself is made from the invasive plant Japanese knotweed. What this design is all about is obvious: it focuses on the existence of local geo-based and bio-based materials as building materials and aims to highlight their relevance for today’s global society.

Pure earth from construction sites

For the initiators, it all started with the realisation that Belgium excavates around 37 million tonnes of earth every year and dumps 70% of it as waste. BC Materials therefore began transforming pure earth from construction sites into local building materials such as clay plasters, pressed earth blocks and rammed earth for walls and floors. These products are circular, carbon-neutral, healthy and possess minimal grey energy.

It gets even more interesting when we hear the promoters stress that they are also thinking about the wider context of the circular economy. This not only means that they want to see their products multiplied to a wider audience, but at the same time they want to spread enthusiasm for future-proof building methods more widely. All this means that the design of the Lamp-a-Terre was conceived in such a way that it is feasible to produce it in a workshop by enthusiasts.

Shared production workshop

In this case, production and design is done in collaboration with a shared production workshop and community based on participation. Makers and artisans with different specialities and backgrounds share dedicated spaces there.

These workshops take place at Micro Factory, a makerspace in Brussels that encourages creation and collaborative production. Here, participants will be introduced to different production techniques, such as grinding, welding, electrical wiring, water jet and laser cutting. The space is organised around different workshops and evolves according to the initiatives and needs of members with different backgrounds and expertise. They all actively participate in the smooth running of the space, which covers the following areas: wood, metal, digital fabrication, electronics, screen printing, textiles and ceramics. By sharing space and machinery, expertise, machines, tools and knowledge become more widely available.

NotWeed paper

With this lamp, we need to provide some additional information about the paper chosen for the lampshade. They used NotWeed paper, the first paper brand that responds to the global environmental problem caused by invasive plants and turns it into an opportunity for paper production. This new brand from NGO Trajna, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was established to support efforts to develop creative and sustainable solutions to invasive plants and paper production. Flowering weeds on urban wastelands are used as an alternative source of cellulose in semi-industrial paper production.

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