Silo Studio, Furniture Designers

Oscar Wanless and Attua Aparicio certainly aren’t the first design students to have clashed with an industrial manufacturer, showing up the so-called experts by proving a seemingly impossible process quite possible after all. But the RCA grads—who now collaborate as Silo Studio—are certainly the first we’ve heard of whose triumph so impressed said manufacturer that they were asked to move into the factory. At an industrial park 45 minutes outside the center of London, Silo operates out of a small warehouse room on the premises of Jablite, the U.K.’s largest maker of styrofoam insulation panels. “They’ve got steam, which is how we produce what we produce,” explains Wanless, that being lumpy polystyrene furnishings once compared to “stage scenery for a production of Hansel and Gretel on acid.”

The pair’s experiments with the crumbly white stuff began when they were seniors in the RCA’s Design Products course and searching for an obscure or overlooked material to experiment with, one that would set them apart from their peers. “We were also looking for something that had its own language, and that we could make different shapes with very easily,” says Wanless. Styrofoam seemed perfect, except for two problems: It was only sold by the ton, in granular form, and the pressurized steam needed to expand those granules was considered dangerous for amateurs to wield. Company after company rejected Wanless and Aparicio’s pleas for help until someone introduced them to Jablite, and even then, they were strongly advised to follow protocols when working with the stuff — something design students aren’t exactly wont to do.

Ultimately, it was only by flouting standard practices that Wanless and Aparicio were able to develop their proprietary design process, which not only won them their “designers in residence” status at the Jablite factory but has since scored them solo shows and a spot on the shelves at the London design mecca Mint. During the city’s design festival in November, they were kind enough to let us poke around the Silo Studio HQ, where they explained their process in detail, and clued us in to the materials they plan to conquer next.