Urban Origin reimagines Tokyo's waste styrofoam.

we+ is a contemporary design studio, founded in 2013 by Toshiya Hayashi and Hokuto Ando. It is dedicated to giving form to new perspectives and values methods based on research and experimentation.

The studio explores the possibilities of alternative design that establishes a close coexistence with the natural and social environment around us, and incorporates a diversity of values that are often forgotten in today's society, where convenience and rationality are sought.

Members with diverse backgrounds and skills: designers, engineers, researchers and writers, come together to present self-initiated projects that have emerged from their daily research, both in Japan and abroad.

With the knowledge gained from these projects, we+ also participates in a wide range of corporate and organisational projects, including R&D, installations as commissioned works, branding, product development, spatial design and graphic design.

In recent years, they have been working on projects including "Nature Study", which investigates how human beings have coexisted with nature until now and imagines a new way of living whereby nature and artificial merge, and "Urban Origin", which examines the origins of today’s overly complicated manufacturing process and reevaluates the waste produced by cities as indigenous materials.

"Refoam is a series of furniture pieces that attempts to reframe today's inappropriate and overly complex relationship between humans and materials". This project is a part of we+'s research project, “Urban Origin”. The material used is waste styrofoam that is collected in Tokyo. "It is common for this material to be melted into ingots in intermediate treatment plants in Tokyo and its suburbs, and most are exported to Europe and South East Asia. In these countries, they are transformed into granules and then into inexpensive recycled plastic products, mainly from China.

"In Japan, these products are typically sold in 100-yen shops. Even though recycling rates are high, the process remains very complex, and the amount of transportation between countries is another problem."

Refoam has therefore explored the possibility of using intermediate treatment plants to directly manufacture furniture as an end product, instead of producing ingots.

The purpose of this project is to simplify the recycling process and, at the same time, to give a completely different value to styrofoam. By considering Tokyo as the origin of used materials, the project returns to the starting point of the relationship between humans and materials - "using vernacular materials and treating them simply with our own hands" - and explores new values for styrofoam.