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Superuse Studios

Rotterdam based Superuse Studios has been at the leading edge of ecological thought and sustainability for several decades. Their work pioneers ideas around moving beyond the "green economy" to a new "blue" economy, where commercial enterprise is organized according to ecological principles and the waste stream of one business becomes the source of raw materials for another. By creating these ecological chains of activity, Superuse encourages a new way of thinking about business, urbanity and ecology.

Superuse focuses on waste with no obvious secondary purpose or easy means of recycling. One of their most visible projects involved windmill blades—objects so large and heavy that they defied efficient recycling. Superuse was able to repurpose them as playground equipment and public benches.

Their first commercial project was a shoe store built from almost 100% surplus materials. The shoe fitting benches are made of surplus wood with a conveyor belt from a supermarket counter centrally in between. Shoes are displayed on former Audi100 windscreens.

The firm’s design process works to rethink the functionality of a thing, and to understand how it could perform a new function once it has served its initial purpose. Superuse has distilled this process into 16 different ‘flows’ that enter and exit buildings and cities. Each project begins by mapping these flows and then examining where the flows interconnect. The ideal design solution is one where the flows intersect, overlap and take advantage of one another, leading to a wholly integrated design product.

Superuse doesn’t restrict themselves to discarded building materials; they take into account all the resources and waste streams of the city. Surplus food, energy, water and traffic are all grounds to rethink and redesign.

We were lucky to spend some time with Jan Jongert on our podcast, Social Design Insights, where he gave us a window into the incredible “blue” economy of the future. Listed to Episode 44 | The Blue Economy of the Future here.