Industrial designer Peter Eckart is co-founder of German design firm Unit-Design, and also serves as a professor and vice president at the Offenbach University of Art and Design. Similarly, fellow German designer Kai Linke founded his own firm, Studio Kai Linke, and is a design lecturer at Art University Kassel.
Aside from both being industrial designers with their own firms who also teach, the two have a peculiar hobby in common: For the past 20 years, they've individually hung onto any disposable plastic cutlery they encountered where the designs interested them. Their collective collection is around 1,400 pieces.
"Plastic cutlery is a global phenomenon and also a global problem," Eckart told It's Nice That. "As disposable products, they are mass-produced, cheap, easy to transport and can be disposed of just as easily as they have been used. Ultimately, they are a symbol of our globalised logistics and throwaway culture."
To highlight this, Eckart and Linke teamed up to present Spoon Archaeology, an exhibition of their collections on display at the London Design Biennale 2021. Despite the title, forks and knives will also be included, with the objects "staged as archaeological artefacts, design curiosities, and anthropological witnesses of an era that is about to end," reads the project description, referencing the EU ban on plastic cutlery.
"The installation presents the material and immaterial cultural heritage of the past and present and invites guests to resonate sustainable solutions for the future by questioning traditional design culture.
"The installation further showcases methods for the critical examination of traditional design approaches, and broadens the view to other cultures. Linke and Eckart do not intend to solely create substitute products, they rather remind the viewer to learn from this collection, take responsibility and develop perspectives for alternative futures."
The duo have also compiled an insanely comprehensive "Spoon complexity map" covering tableware's history from 17,000 B.C. to present day. The image below is likely too small to read, but you can see the large version here.