Watch a talk on crafting a circular economy with Carl Hansen & Søn, SOM and Rarify at NYCxDesign

Dezeen teamed up with Carl Hansen & Søn to host and film a talk about designing products for a circular economy at the Danish brand’s showroom in Manhattan during NYCxDesign 2024.

Moderated by Dezeen’s US editor Ben Dreith, the talk explored themes such as the use of reclaimed materials in furniture design, adaptive reuse and the impacts of new corporate sustainability rules.

Ben Dreith US editor of Dezeen talking about the circular economy
The talk was moderated by Dezeen’s US editor Ben Dreith

Titled Crafting a Circular Future, the panel featured Carl Hansen & Søn head of product development Mads Holm Rabjerg, Rarify co-founder David Rosenwasser and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) sustainability lead Sigal Shemesh.

The panel discussed how circularity plays a role in their respective companies and how today’s designers can craft a more circular economy.

Shemesh explained that SOM has a “red list” of ingredients that are prohibited from being used when working with clients to achieve sustainability targets.

Carl Hansen talk in New York City at NYCxDesign about crafting a circular economy
Panellists discussed how current sustainability practices can be improved

According to Shemesh, having a conversation with manufacturers in advance is important to eliminate any chemicals of concern during the production process.

She added that the architecture industry focuses heavily on the environmental impact of materials and processes used to construct and erect structural elements, but not necessarily “what’s going inside our buildings.

If you have a 60-year lifecycle of a building and you’re changing your interiors every 10 years, that has a huge impact on the embodied carbon,” said Shemesh.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) sustainability lead Sigal Shemesh discussing circular economy
The panel featured Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) sustainability lead Sigal Shemesh

“It’s an industry mindset shift that we need to take on – that reclamation of these heritage pieces is not a bad thing,” she continued, adding that New York City has a “zero waste to landfill” commitment by 2030.

Rabjerg spoke about Danish industry standards, touching on how Carl Hansen & Søn has integrated circularity into the production of its wood furniture.

According to Rabjerg, the brand uses almost every bit of wood sourced, with the remaining scraps being “repurposed as fuel to provide warmth to our production area and more than 450 local homes” as part of a local experiment.

Carl Hansen showroom
The talk was held at Carl Hansen & Søn’s showroom in New York City

“Circularity has always been embedded in how we think,” said Rabjerg, referencing the furniture brand’s 115-year history.

“We only put something into production when we see a longevity for it. We don’t jump on certain trends,” he continued.

Rosenwasser, whose company Rarify repairs and resells authenticated vintage furniture, works with companies in New York City that are completing large-scale liquidations of used office furniture to resell the furniture and reduce unnecessary waste.

“Authencitiy and having architecture firms specify authentic works and not knock-offs or low-quality pieces is one of the best ways of making sure that companies like ours and consumers are interested in giving those pieces a new life,” Rosenwasser said.

He highlighted the importance of education when referring to how designers and manufacturers in the US can improve circularity in their production process.

“What we just heard about is the meticulous nature of what a heritage manufacturer like Carl Hansen & Søn goes through to be a good steward of design,” he said.

Carl Hansen wood workshop inside New York City showroom
The talk featured a workshop where attendees could craft miniature Carl Hansen & Søn chairs

“The US consumer has a big education gap. They don’t necessarily think about the design integrity and the long-term value,” Rosenwasser continued.

“With more education, hopefully, we can help to improve the idea of circularity,” he said, adding that it would be “fascinating” if companies were penalised for poor waste practices.

Founded in 1908, Carl Hansen & Søn is one of the biggest producers of mid-century Danish furniture in the world.

The furniture brand will be exhibiting new lighting and furniture launches by Børge Mogensen, Kaare Klint, Rikke Frost, Vilhelm Lauritzen and Henning Koppel at Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design between 12-14 June 2024, while celebrating the 110th anniversary of Hans J. Wegner.

Images courtesy of Carl Hansen & Søn. The photography is by Sara Pettinella.

Partnership content

This video was produced by Dezeen as part of a partnership with Carl Hansen & Søn. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.

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