While we rarely see projects that explore materials on an elemental scale, they are among some of our most favorite when it comes to better understanding the crossroad of the natural world and mass manufacturing.

Perhaps you may remember London designer Thomas Thwaites’ Toaster Project (free pdf of book here) in 2009 where he tirelessly documented the process of creating a single toaster from scratch. Yes…this meant extracting oil for making plastic to mining and processing the iron, copper, and nickel used in modern toaster designs.

In H / AlCuTaAu, artist/designers Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen of Cohen van Balen brilliantly explore the complete opposite of Thwaites’ Toaster Project where they source a ‘new’ raw material from modern tech artifacts rather than recreating the objects with materials found in their raw state.

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When compared to a toaster, the level of complexity that has gone into creating some of our latest gadgets has no doubt increased dramatically. It can be hard to remember (even as a product designer) where these sourced parts even got their start long before they were shipped in bulk quantities to various positions along an assembly line.

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For H / AlCuTaAu, Cohen and van Balen sourced products from a recently bankrupt factory that allowed them to cheaply assemble a large stockpile of goods to extract the materials from. Once they had their collection, materials including gold, copper, tantalum, whetstone and aluminum were sourced and used to create a single new ‘raw material’ that creates an interesting conversation about our planet’s current technology-obsessed state…and if consumers really stop to think about where that selfie-creating iPhone in their pocket actually came from.

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To find out more about H / AlCuTaAu as well as Cohen and van Balen’s other projects, head over to Cohen van Balen.

Author

Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.