April 21, 2021

Atelier Tobia Zambotti Repurposes Face Masks for COUCH-19

The designer atop his creation. Photography by Raffaele Merler.

Single-use face masks and majestic icebergs don’t seem to have anything in common. But COUCH-19 by Atelier Tobia Zambotti makes an inspired connection between the two. The piece comprises four modular units that can be configured as a sofa, chaise longue, or other seating arrangement. Flexibility is not its most striking characteristic, however. Thanks to its materials and colors—crystal-clear PVC upholstery stuffed with pale-blue and white face masks—the couch evokes a jagged, frozen Arctic sea­scape. “Icebergs are symbols of global warming,” notes the Iceland–based studio’s founder Tobia Zambotti, who had environmental issues firmly in mind when conceiving COUCH-19. Discarded masks, which can’t be recycled in conventional facilities, littered Pergine Valsugana, his northern Italian hometown and shelter-in-place base during part of the pandemic. Through a Facebook campaign, he got residents to collect the cast-off coverings, which were thoroughly disinfected with ozone before becoming the stuffing in the recycled-PVC modules, with all fabrication done locally. “The project’s goal is to send a strong message,” Zambotti says: “Even during critical times, we should never forget to protect our environment.”

“Absurd COVID-related pollution inspired me to create a provocative design,” Zambotti shares. Photography by Raffaele Merler.

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