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A sofa designed to raise awareness about rising sea levels

The dual-use piece of furniture turns into a raft in case of flooding. While the concept has a clever design conceit, it is intended to stimulate engagement and action-taking

Published: May 27, 2023 09:26:12 AM IST
Updated: May 26, 2023 02:37:44 PM IST

A sofa designed to raise awareness about rising sea levelsNew York Design Week hosted a floating sofa by Mother. Image: Courtesy of Mother

During New York Design Week, a sofa like no other serves as a warning about rising waters, an environmental issue of particular concern to the Big Apple. The dual-use piece of furniture turns into a raft in case of flooding! While the concept has a clever design conceit, it is intended to stimulate engagement and action-taking.

Last November, the Polynesian archipelago of Tuvalu looked to the metaverse as an original and thought-provoking way to alert the international community to the climate emergency. The idyllic holiday destination created its digital twin, not as a way to inspire daydreaming, but rather to raise awareness about scientists' projections that it could disappear by 2100. The cause: rising sea levels. Drought and higher temperatures are not the only issues related to global warming that need to be addressed. All around the world, many destinations are threatened by rising water levels. According to various scenarios, experts estimate that New York, and in particular the island of Manhattan, could experience a rise in water levels of 20 to 75 cm by 2050. In France, one in ten coastal homes could be flooded by the end of the century, according to a study by Callendar, which earlier this year provided an analysis of the impact of the risk of flooding on the French real estate market. In the Netherlands, where about a quarter of the territory is below sea level, two thirds of economic activity is exposed to the risk of flooding, according to French public finance group Caisse des Dépôts this past March. The Dutch meteorological institute KNMI has estimated that by 2100 the sea level off the coast of the Netherlands could be 1.2 meters higher than it is today.

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This dramatic consequence of climate change is international in scope and therefore awareness needs to be raised on an international level. While Tuvalu used new technologies in its awareness campaign, the Mother advertising agency is going straight to the point by suggesting that our reality will involve sitting on a raft rather than a sofa in our living rooms if no solution is found. So the design team has imagined a sofa suited for a submerged area, "furniture for a wet tomorrow," as it says on its site. Borrowing the distinctive orange color of a life jacket, the furniture transforms into a raft when the cushions are removed. Equipped with a gauge to assess the water level, the buoyant sofa prototype named Bliss is upholstered in a water-resistant fabric. The sofa comes with a matching ottoman that opens up to allow you to store your cocktail set inside. The sofa design is in fact a tongue-in-cheek comment on our inaction in response to rising waters; it includes a manual with satirical recommendations on how to react in case of finding oneself adrift at sea, inviting readers, for instance, to relax.

The Mother agency unveiled the prototype as part of Design Week in New York City, a destination particularly affected by rising waters. Its exhibition on Broadway at NYCxDesign is coming to an end, and it will then find a buyer for the modest sum of 100,000 dollars. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the United Nations refugee agency.

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