Chicago (USA) * 2005 * Smart Museum & University of Chicago * 3 weeks

Invited by the Smart Museum to contribute a project for the exhibition Beyond Green: Towards a Sustainable Art, WochenKlausur decided to develop an initiative for reusing materials discarded by cultural institutions. Design Students now help to make furnishings for those in need.

Generally cultural institutions discard stage sets and materials used for temporary exhibitions, such as walls and display cases, at the close of the event. Storing the used objects is too expensive. However, materials that theaters and museums consider garbage can be of use to social institutions as raw materials for producing furnishings.
This is where the network established by WochenKlausur gets involved: nine cultural institutions in Chicago supply materials they no longer need at regular intervals, and the usable items are converted by students at design institutes into furnishings and everyday objects that can be used by social institutions.

WochenKlausur set up its project office in the Art Department of the University of Chicago, which is located at the edge of Woodlawn, one of Chicago’s poorest districts. The group visited homeless shelters, soup kitchens, clothing distribution centers and other similar institutions in the neighborhood, evaluating their needs for furnishings, interior remodeling and everyday objects. A long list of needed materials and objects was the result. Simultaneously, theaters and museums were asked to join the network on a permanent basis, and to supply at regular intervals materials that otherwise would be thrown away. All of the institutions contacted agreed to participate.

Departments for design and furniture construction at various universities, schools and colleges also were impressed with the idea and initiated cooperating semester projects. Using the materials from the cultural institutions, the students design and build to order the items needed by the social organizations.
In addition to setting up the network, WochenKlausur executed a project in the workshop of Midway Studios to provide an example for the possibilities of “upcycling”: Deborah’s Place, a homeless shelter for women, approached the group with a request for garden furniture. To fulfill this request WochenKlausur designed and built two tables with umbrellas and twelve stools using cable drums of varying size, wooden panels, hoses and other materials.

The project’s final task was to found a nonprofit organization that could manage the long-term operation and coordination of the network. This new organization, named Material Exchange was made up of employees of the Smart Museum, the University of Chicago Art Department, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Harrington College of Design as well as representatives of the social institutions involved.
The network was in operation until 2010.

Sara Black, Alta Buden, Rosalind Carnes, Samantha Chang, Aurelia Collados de Selva, Claudia Eipeldauer, Qaid Hassan, Martina Reuter, Karl Seiringer, Wolfgang Zinggl