Valérie Bergeron

...innovation is the search for better environmental sustainability without relinquishing enhanced features.

by Mariel Reed
Materfad Barcelona facilitates the transfer of technology between a variety of sectors such as biotechnology, construction, transport or textiles, among others. It provides in-depth knowledge of the technologies and new materials used across all levels of business. This allows Materfad to detect materials and technologies in a specific sector with the potential to be applied to another, by offering knowledge to businesses and professionals that use the consultancy services of Materfad Barcelona.

What is your background? How has that influenced the way you connect art forms and genres that utilise innovative materials?
I am an architect. Having worked in different countries in architecture, museography and product design, I have been able to appreciate the importance of materials in the creation of spaces and objects. In recent years the construction industry in Spain has been going through an unprecedented crisis and is very determinedly considering the introduction of new materials and new technologies to obtain better results. It is a situation that favours the introduction of innovative and unique materials and associated technologies.

What is Materfad Barcelona? How did you create the organisation?
Materfad Barcelona is the materials centre of the FAD, Fostering Arts and Design. The centre, which in collaboration with La Salle (Universidad Ramon Llull), conducts research and technology surveillance in the field of new materials and provides consultancy and training services for businesses, professionals, universities and technology centres.

The centre was created in 2008 to advise professionals and businesses in their search for new materials to realise their projects and products.

Materfad Barcelona works with biomaterials, ceramics, composites, polymers, etc. Its cross-sectional nature turns it into a catalyst for innovation between universities, technology centres, businesses, designers, industrialists, engineers and architects.

The materials, processes and technologies at Materfad Barcelona are commercially available and represent a comprehensive multidisciplinary vision of innovation in this field.

Does the world of materials lack transparency?
There is a lack of information on the source of new materials. We need to know who manufactures them, who distributes them. We need to touch them, manipulate them, smell them, discover their physical dimension, not just view them in the photos of a catalogue. That is why Materfad Barcelona was created, with 3000 online references and samples in its showroom.

What does FAD stand for, and where does Materfad Barcelona sit?
The FAD (Fostering Arts and Design) is a private, independent and not-for-profit association that has the objective of promoting design and architecture in Spanish cultural and economic life. The FAD represents six different disciplines of design:

ADI-FAD (industrial design) / ADG-FAD (graphic design and visual communication) / ARQUIN-FAD (architecture and interior design) / A-FAD (arts and crafts) / ORFEBRES-FAD (contemporary jewellery) / MODA-FAD (image and fashion).

Founded in the year 1903, the FAD has become the leading centre of reference for design and architecture in Catalonia and Spain thanks to its ongoing promotion of creative culture through exhibitions, professional talks, prizes and events.

How do you encourage designers to use new materials?
Professionals have the Materfad showroom in Barcelona at their disposal, which is great for a tactile experience with samples and a database with 35 search criteria to filter the materials. In addition, Materfad provides advice tailored to each project’s brief, forming the most suitable team of experts for each case.

What are some new materials you have been working with? How are they used in fashion?
We work with new materials from all areas: ceramics, glass, wood, composites, etc, with special attention paid to active (smart) materials for their ability to generate energy through external impulses: shape memory, photoluminescence, electroluminescence, etc.

Many new materials are currently being applied to garments to develop clothing that is more active, more comfortable and capable of controlling basic bodily functions: regulating temperature and metabolism through a better use of energy.

What does product innovation mean to you, and what about sustainability?
Innovation is the search for better environmental sustainability without relinquishing enhanced features.

What is the single most fascinating material you have come across?
Aerogel is an amazing material composed of 99.8% air, with a density of 3 mg/cm3. It is the lightest solid in the world. It is weightless yet can withstand more than 2000 times its own weight. It is translucent and provides excellent thermal insulation, acting on the propagation of thermal conduction, convection and thermal radiation.

Tell us about the international network you created with Materfad Barcelona? How has this benefitted designers?
Materfad Barcelona is part of matériO, an international network of materials libraries based in France with centres in Antwerp, Prague and Bratislava.

Materfad Barcelona has developed the first database in Spain and is opening centres in Mexico and Chile.
All of the centres come together to expand knowledge on advanced materials and supply it to designers so they can develop better products.

Can our designers contact you or come and visit?
We offer professionals online access to our database and the possibility of being advised by experts in their quest to introduce innovative materials and associated technologies in their projects.