South Africa, 19 April 2024: UPCYCLE reimagines the future world of work through circular design, which sees local artists transform discarded office furniture into bespoke art pieces. The exhibition is a collaboration between Sanlam, leading global property advisory company JLL, and its subsidiary interior design firm Tétris Design and Build – a world-class design, build and furniture business. It’s on at Maker’s Landing at the V&A Waterfront from 19-20 April 2024, with every piece of art given a sustainability score.

Post Covid-19 and new hybrid ways of working, over a third of all global office desks are empty all week, according to Bloomberg. What’s not spoken about is that each empty office chair ‘costs’ about 72 kg CO2e in carbon to make. Collectively, office furniture has a major environmental impact, accounting for about 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And now, much of it is sitting in storage or piling up in local landfills, as it often costs more to fix than to replace. As most of it is made from petroleum-derived synthetic materials, it quickly becomes one of the planet’s greatest polluters.

Recognising this, JLL and Tétris collaborated with Sanlam to find creative ways to repurpose furniture to be sustainable and future fit.  Sarene Nel, MD of Tétris says, “This exhibition celebrates the power of design and creativity to help us reimagine possible solutions. By partnering with leading clients, designers and suppliers we can make positive change. Our goal is to reduce waste and create efficiencies that work for the environment and the community.”

Tétris commissioned big name local African creators – including Patrick Bongoy (shortlisted for the 2024 Loewe Foundation Craft Prize in Paris), Laurie Wiid (Wiid Design), Hoven Design, Ananta Design Studio, and the Tétris Global and South African teams – to craft bespoke repurposed art pieces from Sanlam’s outdated office furniture. The artists were invited to select the office items they wanted to work with, with each artwork scored for its sustainability.

The result is a 2050 workplace wonderland, with crocheted cassette tape fronds hanging from a repurposed-dustbin chandelier, next to a giant Helix Swing with swing seats made from desk legs. An Oxygen Farm Work Pod – ironically crafted from discarded Covid-19 desk dividers – offers a breath of fresh air, close to an upcycled cabinette, with a handy seed library for the preservation of plants. Nearby, a towering tentacled floor lamp rises from 82 bookshelves and 100 blue bins. It’s a veritable playground of possibility.

Karl Socikwa, Group Executive of Market Development and Sustainability at Sanlam, says, “As a group committed to empowering a life of confidence for all, we are passionate about sustainability and building a better future for generations to come. As such, we are extremely mindful of how we discard our outdated office items, and so this collaboration felt like a natural fit. JLL, Tétris and Sanlam have multiple synergies in our shared sustainability goals to reduce waste and emissions. This was an out-the-box, creative way to work with local talent to repurpose furniture to be relevant and resaleable.”

In line with the planet-friendly goals, each artwork received a sustainability ‘score’ aligned with the Tétris Sustainability Code. This advises on how sustainability considerations can be embedded in every stage of a design and build, across eleven essential pillars. Every artwork was evaluated according to factors such as use of materials to minimise impact, design to foster improved air quality and water preservation, inclusion of natural elements and light to promote well-being, as well as innovation.

Socikwa concludes, “We continue to seek new ways to embed sustainability into our business practices and to uplift and empower local artists and the communities we serve. We are exploring a long-term partnership with JLL and Tétris to scale this initiative, by collaborating with local furniture manufacturers in townships to transform discarded office furniture into new, saleable pieces. As ever, our goal is to make a positive impact on society by contributing to a more sustainable and innovative future.”

UPCYCLE is on at Maker’s Landing at the V&A Waterfront from 19-20 April 2024. Entrance is free. There is a guided walkabout with the designers, hosted by Heath Nash from Circular Squared at 11h00 on Saturday 20 April and all interested parties are welcome to attend.


Notes to the editor:

More about the creators:

Congolese artist Patrick Bongoy, sisters Viveka and Rucita Vassen of Ananta Design Studio, Nisha and Justus Van der Hoven of Hoven Design, and Laurie Wiid of Wiid Design have each created a piece which will be showcased alongside Tétris’s furniture upcycling projects presented by Adrian Davidson, Design Director Tétris EMEA, and two Senior Interior Designers from Tétris South Africa, Helen Wentzel and Tshepiso Lesufi.

The team of designers representing Tétris is stacked with international talent. An acclaimed figure in architecture, interior design, space planning and workplace consulting, Davidson has more than 25 years’ experience in designing luxury eco-lodges, retail and premium workplaces. Before joining Tétris, he completed Klein JAN, the award-winning restaurant in the Karoo in the Western Cape for Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.

Flying the flag for South African design will be Helen Wentzel and Tshepiso Lesufi from Tétris South Africa. Wentzel has more than 30 years’ design experience in the commercial, residential, and retail sectors, where she uses her love of design and attention to detail to create spaces that people find rewarding. From the Pepsico HQ in Johannesburg, to curating the selection of African art for the Roche Johannesburg informal collaboration spaces, Wentzel has an incredible knowledge of local design and materials.

Lesufi has more than 18 years’ experience in retail and corporate design. With an interest and joy in local design and craft that infuses her work, Lesufi recently completed work for NBA in South Africa and Ethiopia where she worked with teams to repurpose and refurbish 65% of existing office furniture and fittings to create dynamic workspaces that playfully include sustainability best practice principles.

Wiid is well-versed in the art of using unconventional materials in his work. The founder and lead designer of Wiid Design, a Cape Town-based product design studio with a catalogue ranging from furniture, lighting and tableware to collectible objects, Wiid is an expert at finding the niche between high-end and sustainable product design.

Most of Wiid Design’s pieces are made using cork, the result of a decade-long

experimentation with the material. This has seen Wiid continually push the boundaries of the material to achieve a number of world firsts – including the world’s largest cork pendant light, and a cork cabinet. For UPCYCLE, Wiid will be creating a sculptural birdhouse, called Birdhouse – Version 2, upcycled using almost 30 old office dustbins in combination with cork, steel and concrete.

Ananta Design Studio is a Cape Town-based design studio committed to fostering a circular economy and creating sustainable, ethical and eco-conscious products. Named as part of Design Indaba’s cohort of Emerging Creatives in 2023, sisters Viveka and Rucita Vassen founded Ananta Design Studio during lockdown in 2020 as a brand that collaborates with craft communities to develop functional art pieces while creating economic empowerment. Ananta’s fantastical beaded creations, characterised by colour and bold patterns, are designed by the duo and crafted in collaboration with skilled artisan communities, such as the beaders at Monkeybiz.

Lesley Joemat has been the dedicated Project Manager for Tree-preneurs at Spier, a project that teaches members of impoverished communities within the Cape how to care for indigenous plants. Now, for the very first time, she has been credited as an artist at the UPCYCLE event – her flourishing work will be on display inside the Oxygen Farm Work Pod to showcase the beauty of both upcycled design and thriving greenery nurtured by the Tree-preneurs.