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Atelier NL Rings the Alarm on Sand

Oct 25, 2017

The Dutch duo collected wild sand from around the globe to highlight the upcoming scarcity of one of the most valuable —and yet underrated— resources for contemporary life

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Text by Rab Messina

The vast coastlines of the planet might make us see sand as an infinite resource, but the reality is quite different. High-quality sand is one of the most used resources in the world, right next to water: it’s everywhere from our bottles to our computer chips and buildings. Due to an intense exploitation from the construction and glassmaking sectors —along with ilegal mining—, we might be facing a scarcity crisis in about 20 years, as we deplete seabeds faster than the planet can replenish them.

And that’s where Atelier NL comes in with one of the most celebrated presentations from this year’s Dutch Design Week: with the To See The World in a Grain of Sand project, the duo wants us to reconsider the sourcing and the possibilities of this potentially precious raw material.

The glassmaking industry usually searches for fine white silica sand from specific, vetted deposits. For months, Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck asked the public to send them samples of sand from around the globe, “to further our dream of mapping the entire world in natural glass.” The sample kits included the stories of how they were sourced, or the memories that took place in the place of extraction. “By the way, one can just take sand from the beach!” said Sterk during a presentation at the VEEM building. “Isn’t that strange?”

These samples, with “wild” sand of varying compositions, were used by the duo to create glassware —tangible objects that represent this issue in a concise way. One of the first in this project is the ZandGlas set, handblown from sand dug from De Zandmotor, near The Hague. For their next series, they’ll move on to dunes, beaches, rivers, deserts, mountains and sandpits around the Netherlands and the globe, to highlight how industries could rethink their sourcing of specialised materials.

During Dutch Design Week you can see the resulting glassware and more details on the project at their studio at the Bergmannkerk, at the VEEM Building, in Sectie-C and also at Kazerne. Also, the DDW ambassadors are hosting a panel on the issue this Friday, October 27, along with documentary filmmaker Denis Delestrac, director of the 2013 film Sand Wars.

A fraction of the samples they're received since the project started
Sand sourcing spots from around the globe, according to the sample kits the duo received
During the process of glassmaking using wild sand samples
The resulting ZandGlas set, using samples from the Netherlands

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