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Building Castles out of Debris: Reuse Interior Design as a ‘Design of the Concrete’

Journal article
Authors Staffan Appelgren
Published in Worldwide Waste: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies
Volume 2
Issue 1
Pages 1–10
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology
Pages 1–10
Language en
Keywords reuse; interior design; bricoleur; circular economy; anthropology
Subject categories Design, Social Anthropology


Large amounts of waste are produced when old furniture is routinely replaced with new as a result of relocations and reorganizations in both the private and the public sector. This article is an anthropological study of reuse interior design, an emerging field of interior design that seeks to enhance sustainability in homes and work spaces through using existing furniture and materials. Redesigners interact with materials not only to explore what they offer within the design concept but also how they may affect that concept. Recent theoretical debates within posthumanism and new materialism illuminate how human and non-human forces together co-produce socio-material outcomes. This perspective is here brought into productive conversation with Claude Lévi-Strauss’ work on the science of the concrete, where he outlines a method for producing new knowledge about the world based on available resources. Building on this conversation, the article argues that the redesigners’ work–assisting existing materials and things in their continuous becoming and turning them into new designs–can be seen as a ‘design of the concrete’. This has wider implications for current debates about the transition into circular economy where recycling, rather than reuse and repair, plays an important role. However, recycling tends to reduce used things simply to their material constituents, depriving them of important social, cultural, and material values. The redesigners’ studio represents a space in which used things and materials are creatively repaired, redesigned or upcycled to be used for new purposes rather than being reduced in material recovery and recycling schemes.

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