The future of urban mining: Salon hair waste as a material for the built environment

The future of urban mining: Salon hair waste as a material for the built environment

Written by Stephanie Hodgson | Title by Pareid Architecture

What could be more important than watching the series premiere of the Great British Bake Off? Well, we would argue that it would be attending our official launch event for London Design Festival 2022. That is exactly what we did on Tuesday 13th September to celebrate the newly arrived, freshly erected installation, Chiaroscuro1, at Gina Conway Notting Hill. Members of this truly collaborative project along with members of the press showed up to take in the three metre high towering, undulating pair of columns clad in felted human hair waste. 





Why on earth did we create a pair of hairy columns?

The UK is in a great race to net zero emissions but moving away from fossil fuels will only get us part of the way there. To get us the rest of the way and to meet global climate goals, we need to speed up the transition to a circular economy. Embracing a circular economy means not just rethinking waste—the central tenet of this concept—but also being open to the future of materials and where we source them.

The fact that our planet has finite resources means we are running out of free flowing, readily available stocks of wood, coal, fresh water, cotton, food crops, arable land, you name it. We cannot ignore that we have become too dependent on virgin resources and we simply can no longer afford to send anything else to landfill. We must look to new places, to new sources for the materials which will feed into our endlessly growing economy.

We would argue that salons are as good a place as any to look. Our exploration of salon hair waste as a resource began well before this project and the making of Chiaroscuro1. We have collaborated with designers, researchers and even manufacturers to explore new ways to maintain or even increase the value of this overlooked material. 


Hair-wool gardening twine as an alternative to cotton and synthetic twines, in collaboration with Natural Fibre Co


Hair rope making workshops with Studio Sanne Visser


Hair as a ‘potting felt’ for water retention, releasing nitrogen and pest control in potted plants, in collaboration with Crawford Hair and partially sponsored by Ocean Plastic Pots (pictured)


Our entry into the 20th anniversary edition of London Design Festival is arguably our boldest example yet. We have set our hair-clad columns within a salon, the very setting from which the material has been ‘mined’. The architects who designed and built is, leading architect-researchers at Pareid Architecture, Deborah Lopez and Hadin Charbel, used the scale of the piece to demonstrate the abundance of this near-valueless material and its potential in the built environment.

See this unique installation for yourself, take a selfie and use the hashtags #LDF22 and #gscpareid.




This is a collaboration between:

GREEN SALON COLLECTIVE   |   @greensaloncollective   |

PAREID ARCHITECTURE   |   @pareid.architecture   |

GINA CONWAY SALON & SPA   |   @gina_conway_aveda   |

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL   |   @l_d_f_official   |

Feature image: Andy Keate

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