Royal College of Art students/designers transform and recycle Red Mud, a toxic waste product, into beautiful ceramic tableware pieces.
Anchored by: Manasi Tahalani
Photographs: Courtesy the designers
The project called From Wasteland to Living Room is collaboration between designers and group of students — Guillermo Whittembury, Joris Olde-Rikkert, Kevin Rouff, and Luis Paco Bockelmann at Royal College of Art. The project started with the designers exploring ways of transforming Red Mud — an industrial residue — into functional and familiar forms. Red Mud, also known as Bauxite Residue, is a byproduct of refining bauxite ore into alumina, the precursor to aluminium. Having sourced the Red Mud from the south of France with help from Alteo — one of the first alumina refineries in the world (1894) — the designers worked closely with KU Leuven and Imperial College London to explore the potential of the material both as a ceramic and as a geopolymer building material. Through hundreds of tests, they developed their own clay bodies, slips, glazes, and concretes, all made with the material. Following this, they worked closely with factories across Europe, material scientists, and ceramicists, where they made a series of surprising tableware pieces and structural elements that hint to the potential of this material. The group of designers explain that the environmental importance of this project lies not in removing it from the disposal site with a single silver bullet solution, but rather in showing the potential of this secondary resource in the place of raw virgin materials.