Courtesy Cody Perhamus

Design Optimism Talks: Creating a Regenerative Future

PROWL Studios’ Lauryn Menard inspired designers to “begin with the end” during the January session of METROPOLIS’s Design Optimism Talks.

Global warming crisis got you down? Listen to Lauryn Menard, cofounder and creative director of the Bay Area’s PROWL Studio, for a dose of optimism. Menard is all about “an end-of-life plan from the beginning of the design process.” She joined METROPOLIS editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal for the magazine’s January Design Optimism talk.

Office furniture, known to be wasteful and toxic, is one of Menard’s hot buttons. “Fast furniture is a massive problem in the design industry,” Menard said. “Constant pressure to keep up with changing trends leads to over 12 million tons of furniture being disposed of in the U.S. each year.” PROWL Studio’s solution? PEEL, an elevated version of the classic stacking chair. The chair is made largely of hemp, which Menard said is “a lesser-known power crop with enormous benefits.”

PEEL’s structural frame is made of a hemp-based bioplastic that is manufactured just like conventional plastic but that can be industrially composted. The material combines hemp-based fiber and hurd—byproducts of industrial hemp production that are typically wasted—with biopolymers. The chair is topped off with a completely novel hemp foam cushion and encased in hemp “bioleather.” PEEL is being manufactured by M4 Factory.

Lauryn Menard, cofounder and creative director, PROWL Studio

“We need to start thinking about the end of a product’s life at the beginning of the design phase,” Menard said. “This is not really natural for designers. It’s not comfortable to think about what an object will be like at its end. But the product life cycle needs to be addressed.”

PROWL Studios was part of the BEACON exhibition, a one-day event held in July featuring San Francisco-based companies exploring sustainable material science, technology and design. Photo courtesy Cody Perhamus.

Another of PROWL’s office furniture designs is the Gather Collection for Model No., based in Oakland. In production, sawdust generated from the milling of the table, often seen as waste and thrown out, is collected and compounded into the plant-based polymers used to 3D print the stools. “It’s a fully circular and waste-free case study for how we can create responsible furnishings,” the designer said. “What’s more, it’s local and digitally produced.”

PROWL does more than office furniture. Lightship is the nation’s first all-electric RV company. It is conceived as an aerodynamic trailer that is towed.

“Lightship is on a mission to reimagine the recreational vehicle experience,” Menard explained, insisting that it is the exception to the “recyclable and compostable” tenets of the environmental movement. “The goal isn’t always for something to go away quickly,” she concluded. “Sometimes you want things to last for generations, and Lightship is one of those things.”

PROWL showcased Lightship, its all-electric RV company, at the Beacon exhibition. Photo courtesy Cody Perhamus.

Listen to the January session of Design Optimism Talks here. This session was presented by Garden on the Wall.

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