MONOFERMENTS, a palette of "simply circular" materials

"During the first lockdown, just like many of us, we asked ourselves what we were leaving and passing on to our children, both as a professional couple and parents. We had the need to inspire them towards something nobler. What could we do, as a small architecture and interior studio, to lead our everyday practice towards a new, more circular and sustainable way of working?"

This reflection made the architects Elisa Evaso and Luca Guglieri by MONOSTUDIO ASSOCIATI to elaborate the ingenious MONOFERMENTS project. A research linked to the reuse of valuable materials led the two professionals to knock on the doors of the shops near their home with a simple request: the delivery of garbage and waste to create a palette of circular, sustainable and biophilic materials.

On a balcony we had eggshells from the fresh pasta shop opposite our house, coffee grounds kindly donated by our favorite café and shells from the seafood restaurant around the corner. On the other balcony, there were the experiments of biomaterials, drying out and sometimes getting moldy”, Elisa and Luca said.
After the first experiments, the architects introduced themselves to two very different businesses that will allow them to create the number one material of the palette, defined as “simply circular”: two prototypes of floor tiles and three for interior cladding.

Antonio and Davide Benedet, owners of MIPA – European leader in the production of chippings based in Ravarino (MO) – immediately understood the purpose of MONOFERMENTS. They agreed to share their scraps and work on this new material, “saving” the dust and ground marble – already 100% recycled from stone processing – which, as bottoms of the bags, would have gone to landfill anyway. Then, the residues have been mixed with the food waste proposed by MONOFERMENTS.

This eight-month process of experimentation, production and sharing of ideas also crossed the path of the three-star Michelin restaurant Osteria Francescana. The brigade enthusiastically responded to the request for eggshells and coffee grounds: according to the experiments carried out, their chemical nature makes these scraps interact in an interesting way with the recycled marble, lending a poetic style to the material.

During these eight months of experimentation, the architects worked together with MIPA on the percentages of marble, coffee and eggshell, maintaining 20% cement as a binder and waiting for the results after the pressing and curing of the prototypes in the cell. Being mostly composed of calcium carbonate, the eggshell fits perfectly into the mixture made up of marble dust and granules. Small pieces of eggshell emerge from the tiles: an imperfection that has an aesthetic value and reminds us of nature, life and, finally, biophilia. On the other hand, the coffee grounds pigment the dough and create an opposite reaction of voids and small grooves that favor a material appearance, because of their acid base. Finally, as regards the design of the product, sustainability lies in the shared choice of using a mold already present in the MIPA archive, called Nerone.

“The tiles are shaded and imperfect, this is their strength. Imagining an interior, a house made with this material makes us immediately think of the direct connection with our senses. In addition to the visual and tactile material imprint, we are also working on a possible and future olfactory experience of the material”.

MONOFERMENTS experimentation is constantly evolving. After the first material, the architects are developing a paint, a wallpaper, a parquet, a fabric and a glass plate.
MONOFERMENTS is therefore an invitation, an open call to Italian companies to come forward to experiment the new palette with MONOSTUDIO ASSOCIATI, for a more circular and local business perspective.