“The process of innovation, materials, techniques, trends and developments fascinates me,” reveals Els Zijlstra, founder and creative director of Materia, a Dutch company dedicated to showcasing the latest in smart materials. The platform’s key mission is to connect creatives with the material industry, making it a vital tool for designers, architects and manufacturers alike.
With the ever-present focus on sustainability and many designs and products in the superyacht market and beyond turning to ‘green’ technology, what does Zijlstra feel needs to change for every new concept to think green? “Design should be more focused on the circular economy, so all elements and materials should be able to be dismantled and re-used,” she notes, arguing for all designs to have a ‘material passport’, which sees each individual component clearly identified to aid the recycling process.
A trained architect, Zijlstra founded Materia almost two decades ago as she felt there was a vital source missing, a database to find new and interesting materials – ones challenging and driving forward age-old techniques. The platform has now developed to international acclaim, offering consultancy, educational seminars, exhibitions and events for the design and architecture community.
Next month, Els Zijlstra will host a workshop entitled ‘Millennial Materials’ at the Global Superyacht Forum. The session will identify key trends in design materials, something that often isn’t present in the conservative yachting sector. Looking at parallel industries, Zijlstra sees various trends that can be applied to a marine environment, materials that can generate energy, indestructible coatings, bio-based materials comprised of sources like coffee grounds, almond shells or seaweed. These are all viable options and will become more commonplace in the automotive, architectural and aviation worlds. “A lot is possible for structural, aesthetic and technical purposes; materials that can ‘sweat’ to cool spaces, self-cleaning and self-healing surfaces, as well as super lightweight composites.”
Interestingly, the primary inspiration for many of these materials is nature. Biomimicry and bio-based materials are driving many of the innovative techniques Zijlstra sees, with many discoveries coming from the agricultural industry’s so-called ‘garbage-materials’. That, she notes, as well as developments at the other end of the spectrum, the technological movement focusing on 3D printing and robotic builders.
It will be a paradox, then, for the next-generation of yachts to be built by robots from used bio-based materials. Watch this space.