Last week I made a visit to the New York City office of Material ConneXion to participate in their monthly jury meeting to select new materials for the library. A world leader in material innovation, Material ConneXion is a trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies as well as forward-thinking agencies and governmental bodies seeking a creative, competitive, or sustainable edge. Material ConneXion maintains the world’s largest subscription-based materials library with more than 7,500 innovative materials and processes across all disciplines of design. Materials are selected through a strict review process, with over 40 new materials independently juried into the library every month.
The most recent jury met last Thursday at the Material ConneXion offices in the Time & Life Building in Midtown. Upon arrival, we were instructed to tour the samples in the current library and grab one that inspired us. We then sat down in a meeting room with several outside jurors as well as Material ConneXion staff to introduce ourselves and say a few words about the samples we selected. My selection was a soft almost surreal 3D textile made of recycled fabrics. The meeting was led by Andrew Dent, Material ConneXion’s VP of Library and Material Research. I first met Dent several years ago when he served on a jury I hosted for Architectural Record‘s Product Reports.
After reviewing our criteria and goals for the day, we began reviewing the 16 products to be juried that day, one by one. A staff member would hold up the sample for the table and say a few words about its major features and unique processes or properties. They then passed the samples around the table and jurors could ask a few questions before voting on a private ballot sheet whether or not it should be entered into the library. Each product fell within a different category index – and we had to then vote for the best of category for each material type (polymer, glass, carbon, metal, etc.). Materials ranged from complete systems, to raw materials. Standouts include the Fidlock Hook Fasteners, a compact, lightweight magnetic fastener that can hold remarkably high loads, Xylomera, a biobased polymer derived from plant lignin, a waste product from the paper industry, and Muskin, a lightweight, suede-like material made from the skin of mushroom buttons.
Taking home the Best of Show was Ligneah, a thin wood veneer that has the look of a fabric and is a soft and flexible as leather. Composed of 65% wood and backed with 35% cotton, the material’s softness comes from the scoring of the wood surface using a laser. Such beauty does come at a price however, with pieces ranging from $78 to $100 per square meter. While I really liked Ligneah, it wasn’t my vote for Best of Show. That went to the less sexy, but much more environmentally friendly Geo-Tech Polymers, which are FDA food-use approved polymer resin pellets that are 100% recycled from post-consumer and post-industrial plastic scrap. What impressed me most was that the manufacturer developed a water-based process to remove coatings like ink, paper, paint, films, and labels from plastics waste, reclaiming the polymer without using solvent. The material allows more recycled content to be used in manufacturing products, which has a huge a environmental impact. Below, I share photos of some of the products that were juried. For more information on Material ConneXion visit their site here.
All images © Rita Catinella Orrell