Centre of Applied Research Technology

From an ArenA seat to a designer chair

AUAS develops design strategies for end-of-life SME products

4 Feb 2020 09:55 | Centre for Applied Research Technology

How do you go about creating new products out of discarded materials and products and their components from SMEs, such as old seating from the Amsterdam ArenA stadium or the yellow NS railway signs listing departure times? These items are too valuable to recycle or even to incinerate, but were designed for such a specific purpose that refurbishing them makes little sense. In the REPURPOSE project, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is researching new design and business strategies that will allow these types of materials to be repurposed.

SMEs in Amsterdam have a large number of these types of residual flows, which often end up in the incinerator, given that the options for repurposing are limited, despite the fact that reuse of these products reduces the use of new materials. Current design and production techniques and business models do not lend themselves to these products, given that they are designed for a very specific purpose, their quality varies significantly and the availability of the materials fluctuates or is even limited. The seats in the Amsterdam ArenA stadiums , for example, are not replaced each year – fortunately.


The best option for materials, products and their components is to be reused for another purpose or context than that they were originally manufactured for. On the circularity ladder , this is known as repurposing. Recycling of materials will often entail downcycling (with the value decreasing) and higher circular value creation such as repairing and refurbishing is generally not an option due to the specific function of the product. So how can that be achieved?

‘By using repurpose-driven design & manufacturing (RDD&M), or design and manufacturing techniques specifically developed for repurposing objectives,’ says project leader Mark Lepelaar of REPURPOSE . ‘Great examples include designer chairs made out of old ArenA seats and trays made out of old NS railway signs.’


‘Within RDD&M, we are developing a repurpose typology, which involves examining issues, such as: What are the various types of repurposing and what are their features? To what extent are existing design methods suitable? What are the appropriate business models? This is something we work on with business that have experience with the Repurpose issue, such as Studio Hamerhaai , Tolhuijs Design , Cartoni Design and Verdraaid Goed .


Says Lepelaar: ‘Our search for efficient repurposing methods has only just begun, so we need to develop knowledge first. At the end of the project, we will be presenting a clear typology and a first step toward a repurposing design strategy. This means that we will not be developing a production technique, but rather a method that allows designers to design products from raw materials of variable quality (composition, shape, colour, degree of wear, etc.) and supply. This could be a method that perhaps could be used for other residual streams at a later stage.’

The results will be shared widely, allowing everyone to apply this knowledge. This will be carried out by the researchers at scientific conferences, but also at exhibitions during the Dutch Design Week and in the circular pavilion CIRCL .