Living Sculptures

Pure Plant, one of the RoPlastic Prize winners during the Milan Design Week 2023, part of Rossana Orlandi’s RoGUILTLESSPLASTICS, are decorative, 3D printed plants that absorb CO2 through photolysis. It is a perfect marriage of creativity and technology, a product of the creative brains of Carmelo Zappulla of Barcelona-based External Reference Architects. 

With over 600 participants from 73 countries of five continents, the 2023 edition of RoPlastic Prize, the worldwide challenge of RoGUILTLESSPLASTIC, is getting the attention it deserves. A project by Rossana Orlandi and Nicoletta Orlandi Brugnoni, RoPlastic Prize has an agenda to raise awareness about ways of designing waste to a better use and to inspire the international creative community to design responsibly with reused, recycled and up-cycled plastic.

In RO Plastic Prize, Art and Collectable Design category, Pure Plants from Italy, decorative pieces of art and design clinched the winning title. This product was presented at Dubai Design Week in November 2021 and exhibited in Spain at the Design+Health exhibition organized by World Design Capital Valencia in 2022. At the successive Madrid Design Festival, they appeared on the cover of the festival guide, being chosen as a symbol of its slogan “Redesigning the world”.

We talked to the creator and architect Carmelo Zappulla to understand the concept and the process of design of Pure Plants.

Zappulla is an architect and founding partner of Barcelona based External Reference Architects and he says that Pure Plants, family of 3D printed plants that absorb CO2 through photolysis, is a project with a manifesto to put the human being and his creations in the service of nature.

“From a philosophical perspective, the anthropocentric worldview is based on the idea that humankind is the center of everything and that the rest, including the environment, is at the service of its needs and desires. This approach has led to indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and the emission of large quantities of greenhouse gases, which has ended up in several environmental disasters, moreover it has ignored the interconnectedness of all living things and has led to environmental degradation and the decline of biodiversity,” he asserts quite emphatically.

And therein comes Pure Plants, or living sculptures with a pretext to initiate a dialogue between nature, art, design and technology, challenging humanity’s anthropocentric position by offering an alternative to the way people interact and relate to the environment. “By using technology to create artificial organisms that replicate the structure and function of natural plants, these sculptures put forth the idea that technology does not have to be detrimental to the environment but can be part of the solution,” says Zappulla, “The creation of the family of purifying plants, conceived in different formats, colours and species, is an initiative to promote sustainability and improve the quality of the air we breathe by combining advanced technology and a creative approach.”

He reveals the technology behind this creation: “Pure Plants purify the air we breathe by using the available material called Pure.Tech. Pure Tech is an advanced polymer composed of 100% natural minerals that have the property of absorbing and neutralising CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for catalysis. In its production, it is mixed with PLA, a bioplastic polymer made from corn dextrose (sugar), to achieve a 100% natural mineral compound capable of capturing and mineralising the main greenhouse gases and pollutants found in the atmosphere.”

Pure Plants are available to buy in the Rossana Orlandi Art and Design gallery in Milan, and online in the shop area of the website of the manufacturer, LaMáquina.

Zappulla is a creative architect who is constantly experimenting and heads External Reference, a multidisciplinary architecture studio whose aim is to turn spaces into emotional experiences, breaks the boundaries between architecture, art and high technology, transferring all its expertise in diverse and increasingly more design pieces, such as its signature project, the concept and design of the “Pure Plants” family.

The studio was re-founded in 2016 and they has completed international projects in a wide variety of fields, including urban interventions, architecture, retail and hospitality, exhibition spaces, and products. Among its projects are the new seafront of Nova Bocana in Barceloneta, the exhibition design of the Spain Pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020, the phygital marketplace WOW in Madrid, gastronomic spaces such as the restaurant Alkimia, Casa Moritz and The Penthouse by WOW, and the emblematic Presented by stores and corners in London, Paris, Dubai, Doha, Riyadh, México among others.

All Images Courtesy The Pure Plants