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Design As Catalyst

Max Hornaecker

Max Hornaecker is a German-Italian industrial designer who lives and works in London. Graduate in Design Products, he grew up in Italy where he studied Design and Art at the Free University of Bolzano.

In his practice, he researches man-made and natural processes with a strong focus on materials and sustainability. He pushes the aesthetic and functional quality of his products, to communicate through adequate means his research questions. Through empathy and insights, inspired by nature, he purposes a change in society. His interest and work experience includes industrial design and exhibition design, as well as data visualizations and storytelling.

His work has been exhibited at Milan Design Week 2019, in Ventura Project, at POTENTIALe Feldkirch 2019, at TEDxBolzano, and in Wild Mazzini Gallery. His Critical and Historical Studies dissertation was awarded with distinction and is now part of the special collection of student’s work in the library of the RCA. 


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Degree Details

School of Design

Design As Catalyst

The projects presented here summarises the way he works and his field of interest. Context, ranging from a global pandemic to the riverbed of the Thames, materials, systems, and crafts plays a key role in his creative processes.

He is eager to work outside his boundaries, adapting to current situations and open to collaborating on new projects. Currently, he is working on a joint project of Studio Unfold to bring back a Peruvian vessel, lost during the fire at Brazil's Museu Nacional, while exploring the possibilities of locally sourced clay.

Clay cups

Oxygen reduction in pit firing

Oxygen reduction in pit firing

Process documentation
Clay making

Clay making

Pit fired cup

Process journal — soil coloration

Location of the farmhouse

Color of the soil — Farmhouse

Color of the soil — Quarry

Location of the quarry

Workshop at the farmhouse

A collection of earthenware cups, that questions the delicate system of supply and demand during a crisis. The project reflects upon the lack of material knowledge of how things are made, where they come from, and how they reach us.

The Covid-19 pandemic caught us by surprise and the supply of goods became spare as the lockdown regulations became more strict. The project suggests an alternative to outsourcing by relying on traditional and archaic means of production.

Starting from an analysis of local material resources and crafts specific to where I am living, I explored the process of how Terracotta is made and produced. The process is self-taught without prior knowledge of how clay is made and formed.

The clay is sourced from the backyard of a farmhouse in Italy and from an abandoned quarry. The soil is processed with common tools and objects, filtered and sun-dried. The cups are pressed by hand in plaster molds and pit fired with wood.

In Collaboration with:

CastingclayCraftearthEnvironmentallocal manufactureMaterialpandemicResourcesstonewaresustainability

Bottle opener made using diffusion bonding

Aluminium shavings



Instructions for diffusion bonding

Making process

Making process

Process documentation

CNC milled bottle opener

As we become more and more aware of how we consume, produce and impact the environment with our actions, a meaningful change is needed to reach a climate-neutral economy by 2050. The present uncertainty of an efficient strategy to achieve this goal is the drive to develop methods and processes that lead to a more settled and balanced future.

Focusing on aluminium shavings, an excess from subtractive manufacturing that is perfectly recyclable, I explored processes that require lower energy investment, to transform contaminated aluminium into a solid billet. By using diffusion bonding to join metals, I developed a process to compact contaminated aluminium shavings while using approximately 1/3 of the energy input to traditional melting: the high temperature needed for fusing the metal is replaced with pressure and lower heat.

The shavings are pressed and intertwined with each other, maintaining so the main properties of refined aluminium. By doing so, some of the most energy-consuming phases for fusing can be omitted, such as de-coating, shredding and filtering. This enables a fast and efficient process, to the extent that shavings can be used in their entirety, reducing to a minimum any material loss. This process is not meant to substitute the foundry, but rather to offer an alternative method to produce an aluminium substitute for less engineered applications, ensuring an additional life-cycle for the material before remelting it.

Through my design response, I want to demonstrate the aesthetic and structural properties of the material, suggesting a valid alternative through distributed manufacturing, as this process can be employed locally to where the by-product occurs.

In Collaboration with:

Seven objects

The riverbed at Southwark

The riverbed at Southwark

Personal mudlarking map

Lofting thimble of the 17th century

Making process

Tape dispenser from gin bottle

Clay pipe book — Atkinson & Oswald

Pen and holder from clay pipe

A series of ordinary domestic and quotidian objects which seek to remind of an ever present, but virtually neglected environment: the riverbank of the Thames.

This merely temporarily accessible space bears testimony of London’s history from the past until this very moment. Given its physical composition, it has been continuously compiling a collection of historic objects of culture which once were washed up on the shore, been buried in the mud, and which have now been laid open to the public anew.

Sedimentary Matter consists of seven objects, seven stories. Each object is a conglomerate of a piece of debris found in the mud along the river Thames and a brass element. It reflects the adversarial status of waste in historic and cultural artifacts. This affiliation of old and new material links the past to the present, while at the same time gives a new utility.

In Collaboration with:

31 July 2020
13:00 (GMT + 0)

When The Place Shuts Down: Gary Hustwit

Read More
30 July 2020
13:00 (GMT + 0)

When The Place Shuts Down: Jan Rose

A series of conversations between students, tutors and industry leaders about design products.
22 July 2020
13:00 (GMT + 0)

When The Place Shuts Down: Sandeep Sangaru

Students and Leading Practitioners in Conversation with Sandeep Sangaru.
28 July 2020
14:00 (GMT + 0)

When The Place Shuts Down: Glenn Adamson

A series of conversations between students, tutors and industry leaders about design products.

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