Inspired by an Indian tradition of serving chai tea in clay cups, Israel’s Adital Ela has designed Terra – an entire line of interiors made out of nothing but foot-stomped earth! A TED fellow with a love of nature and Iraqi roots, Ela told Fastco Design that she was fascinated that once tea is drained in parts of India, the cups are then tossed on the ground and reclaimed by the earth.
Such a closed loop design cycle may seem new to readers of William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle, but Ela discovered that there is a long history in the Middle East of using organic materials not only to build homes but to make smaller products too. After considerable research, she gave ancient techniques a contemporary twist using materials sourced from the fields near her Tel Aviv studio.
“I was amazed to discover that this knowledge was actually in my family one generation away,” she told Fastco.
“It reminded me again how crucial it is to find ways to lean back onto the heritage taught to us by our ancestors and take it forward by applying current scientific and technological knowledge, towards a future in which also our products have grandchildren.”
While she drew on techniques from Iraq and Palestine, most of Ela’s inspiration came from Persia, where earth construction has evolved over hundreds of years.
Using a magical mixture of earth, straw, water and other organic natural materials, she then molds stools and lampshades that are incredibly sturdy. But once they’ve outlived their useful lifetime, they can be either reformed into something else, or thrown away without creating any undue environmental impact.
Not only are the materials breathable, healthy, and natural, but their manufacture into furniture requires absolutely zero energy – making Terra the ultimate solution for the growing, international problem of excess waste and material shortages.
Ela is a sustainability design lecturer at Holon Institute of Technology who leads workshops and lectures at conferences around the world. You can check out more of her work at S-Sense Design.