Erik van Schaften

Erik van Schaften tells a new story new about the infamous giant hogweed and transforms the invasive plant into a series of new material applications. The material options offer a replacement for various traditional materials; this way he changes the weeds into a potential new crop.

The giant hogweed (Heracleum Mantegazzianum) was imported as an ornamental plant in the 19th century. The plant was used as a status symbol in the Victorian era. It was a huge exotic showpiece. Originally the plant comes from the Caucasus region, nowadays Georgia. It is unknown who introduced the plant, but the Latin name can be traced. Heracleum refers to the Greek god Herakles, who used the plant as a medicine. Mantegazzianum is a tribute to Paolo Mantagaza, an Italian medical anthropologist who was renowned in his time.

After the introduction, the plant escaped and spread rapidly across Europe. Because of this, the plant is nowadays seen as a problem. The giant hogweed, which can be a danger to humans and animals, is being exterminated. Van Schaften, however, proposes another narrative; because the plant dries out in the autumn, it is possible to process it into different materials. The designer processes the bark from the plant into an aesthetic veneer. The hollow trunk that mainly consists of pulp is processed into insulating foam material. The remains of the plant are processed into a light and strong cardboard composite.

The plant spreads quickly on unused sites, requires no maintenance, and is extremely light. Invasive plants like this form the material source of the future.