VCUarts Qatar Graduate Nada Raafat Elkharashi Uses 384 Egg Crates To Design Award-Winning Sustainable Seating Structure

In the long run, Elkharashi hopes that her concept and final product can motivate residents to have designated bins to dispose of their daily share of egg crates.

Muhammed Berry/VCUarts Qatar.
Nada Raafat Elkharashi, Alumna, VCUarts Qatar

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A sustainable seating design using 384 egg crates built by Nada Raafat Elkharashi, an alumna of Doha-based Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar), was chosen to be showcased at the Rossana Orlandi Ro Plastic Exhibition, an international initiative that engages designer and creative communities to transform plastic and other kinds of waste.

While Elkharashi's project went on to win third place at the Rossana Orlandi Ro Plastic Prize 2022: Urban and Public Design, the furniture piece was initially conceptualized for Qatar Museum's open call for submissions based on the theme "reuse, recycle, and reduce." Formulated as back-to-back sitting spaces with a perforated shade that lets in flickering light, the design was thus unveiled at Qatar Museum's M7, a creative hub located at Doha's Msheireb Downtown. Elkharashi's design was then chosen to be showcased at Milan Design Week 2022, as part of the Rossana Orlandi Ro Plastic Exhibition.

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2017, and a Master of Fine Arts in 2021 -both from VCUarts Qatar- Elkharashi explains that her inspiration for the design stemmed from wanting to reimagine a healthier, more mindful everyday world. Indeed, in the long run, Elkharashi hopes that her concept and final product can motivate residents to have designated bins to dispose of their daily share of egg crates. "Such projects are necessary as an initial step toward mindfulness, to spark a connection that can potentially change user actions and conscious behavior," she says. "This is also why I designed the seat using egg crates in its original form, without major manipulations such as shredding, melting, etc. allowing users to see a common disposable object in an unusual yet functional role, in public spaces."

Source: Muhammed Berry/VCUarts Qatar.

According to Elkharashi, the design and implementation of the furniture piece can be adapted to the number of egg crates collected, making it similar to a modular system where individual components can be added or removed. "The design calls for collecting local egg crates from the community, big supermarkets, chicken farms, and, most importantly, from individual households," she says. "For this seat, I collected unused egg crates from local hypermarkets such as Lulu and Carrefour. I also purchased recycled pulp egg crates, to fill in certain spaces. But for future public seat collections, all crates will be collected locally, categorized according to size, and used for production."

The core of the seat is designed using a metal brace and screws. The cartons are assembled as one longitudinal cladding module, making the structure firm and functional. With the collection of more egg crates, more cladding modules can thus be added as separate extensions at the top or on the sides. Sending out another reminder on the importance of mindfulness, Elkharashi explains that as the cartons eventually degrade, only the metallic brace and screws of the main structure will remain, serving as a visual reminder to gather and replace the degraded crates with another batch of reused ones.

"The seat visually communicates and celebrates the natural life span of physical change," she says. "It exhibits the aging qualities of the egg crates to the public, showing its journey through its youth, aging, and then final degradation. It shows its shedding, tears, marks from previous users, and foreign physical appearance after the expiration date. This aspect of the design triggers a shift in people's behavior to respecting the life of a non-living organism, and in turn, discourages shallow living."

Source: Mostafa Bakhat/VCUarts Qatar.

However, despite her propensity to observe communities and understand what could serve their overall functioning, Elkharashi reveals she doesn't view herself as someone who advocates exclusively for sustainability. The VCUarts Qatar graduate, who also has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design qualification, says she doesn't necessarily find the typical notions of sustainability interesting.

"Even though I practice sustainable measures, I redefine the objective of sustainability," Elkharashi says. "To me, it's about being mindful and aware of what you touch and how it interacts with you. The understanding can be in the form of how you drink water or how the water behaves in your body. It is about constantly thinking and asking, 'What else?' 'What about?' and 'What if?' It is about advancing the quality of life, and increasing the overall well-being of individuals and communities to foster positive attitudes and better living within the community."

Her views appear to align well with that of her alma mater VCUarts Qatar- an entity that was formed two decades ago through a partnership between US-based Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts and the non-profit organization Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. "I see myself as an advocate for positive change; as a designer who integrates cultural advancement, biology, and philosophy to understand how form and objects inform decisions on humans," Elkharashi adds. "And that's what led me to create this seating installation."

Related: How PepsiCo Is Empowering Female Farmers For A Sustainable, Hunger-Free Future

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