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Art of Recycling

RenoYang 2016-09-14 13:33

Designers Jonas Merian and Moritz Spielberg of JoMo Design have gradually gained traction in China's design industry. Reusing old things is common in other countries, but there is a lingering stigma to such a concept in China - Chinese prefer brand new furniture. The duo attempts to make people reconsider their stigma by using wood from Shanghai's old town to make a set of "Kangding Road" series furniture. This maintains the old woods' special texture but gives it a new breath of life with their own technique. The combination of old and new has proven a hit with local customers.


Jonas Merian is a well-trained prosthetic restoration expert. He made the unusual decision of leaving his home in Switzerland for North Korea, before moving to China in 2006. Along with the geographical upheaval, he also pivoted his career to become a furniture designer. Inspired by Shanghai's urban history and constant change, Merian established Jonas'Design in Shanghai in 2010. Furniture and home accessories of Jonas'Design became known for their unique recreation style. Jonas'Design recycle, recreate, and upgrade old materials, trying to rebuild Shanghai's old landscape with contemporary interior decoration.


In2013,Moritz Spielberg met Jonas Merian in a marketplace in Shanghai. Spielberg is German with professional training in carpentry. Before he came to China, Spielberg had envisioned a land of plentiful job opportunities but he realized very quickly that "everything is about time and money. And everything is fast." What surprised him most was the pace of change. Buildings are torn down and rebuilt seemingly overnight, often with callous disregard for its heritage or history. "Some people don't really think about design itself," he says. "They only care about constantly making stuff and then showing people."

Soon afterward, it was very dramatic that they changed quickly from communication to cooperation. In 2014, their first cooperation project was show at the Milan Furniture Fair. Their furniture brand, JoMo Design, was born the year after. They decided to focus on home furnishing and home accessories. The "Kangding Road" series was their first series and exhibited at Design Shanghai 2016 where it received a lot of attention from both the media and the furniture industry.



In Western society, people often like to put in an inherited piece of furniture or two... something that has sentimental value. But in China, people often pursue all the "new" things in the process of urbanization. Of course, there are still many people that have a deep attachment to the old. Spielberg is more interested in the old wood left over from Shanghai's housing demolition. He realized there were a lot of chances to take it a step further after he saw the way Merian was remolding old furniture. Their reclaimed wood came from floor panels, doors, and frames from thousands of households  in Shanghai. Merian thinks home should be a place of sanctuary. The home makes people feel safe. The continuity of materials can make people nd the geniality preserved from older generations.


No two pieces of wood from the "Kangding Road" series is alike, each telling a story about a bygone era. Old woods are integrated into the table top through a simple geometric design. A layer of high gloss resin adds a polished sheen to  the handmade tables, turning old materials new again. These tables become an authentic depiction of Shanghai currently balanced at the point between modernity and tradition. The old alleys where the wood comes from are being replaced rapidly with modern high buildings covered with glass and concrete, forever transforming the city's landscape.


"It's very difficultto find such woods now in Europe where old buildings are protected. You can't get inside to damage them. In the 1960s, many buildings that were demolished and rebuilt. But there are very few now. Even if you can find some, it would be very expensive. This kind of wood from fiooring, walls, and ceilings  are very rara," Spielberg says. He is pleasantly surprised at the layers of colour of the wood on a Kangding Road from where they have been repeatedly painted. After a long time of use, some inside colours will jump outside or have different degrees of integration with the surface, just like oil paint. Spielberg says:"In America or Europe,people might not remold old things but they will repeatedly use old things. Young people will inherit furniture from their grandpa or go to buy some second-hand furniture. Old furniture will be really used instead of being left in the warehouse. " 


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