Silvio Rebholz

Juli / July - 2019

Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart



WR 79.9 is a paper shredder which uses explosions to destroy documents. With a twinkle in its eye, the spectacular process intends to break the monotony of office routines.

What is the Topic?

When something explodes, an extraordinary amount of energy is released in a short period of time. There is an interruption of the everyday physical and chemical normality that surrounds us without an explosion. Explosions contrast drastically with the habits and routines that humans develop from their very first second and become essential for their survival. Routines that we can call up create rest periods for the brain and enable us to concentrate on decisive moments and decisions. Work and leisure routines, consumption and sleep cycles structure our everyday life and provide us with support for unexpected moments of stress. Thanks to the high standard of living in the western world and the guaranteed satisfaction of basic needs in the everyday life of Central Europeans, at least existential moments of stress become rare. This achievement is a great good for all concerned, but it also carries the increased risk for them to stick to habits too much. If we find ourselves in the same situations too often, this can make us unhappy or at least bored. As a product designer who wants to design objects for everyday life, I am happy about the ambivalence of everyday life in our society. It gives me the opportunity to interpret the design of objects in different ways and to make everyday life easier through my influence or to surprise and make users truncate. An explosion stands in stark contrast to everyday life. If contexts or actions become habitual through repetition, the brevity, volume and uncertainty of the explosion contrasts with it. The nature of an explosion cannot simplify everyday life, but offers the potential to upset the routine of it.

Why does it look like this?

Designing an explosion in a document shredder is a balancing act between the difficult-to-control force of an unleashing explosion and the clearly defined framework of a product. Internal combustion engines show that explosions can be integrated into products. However, when driving a car, hardly anyone without background knowledge realises that explosions are constantly taking place. Since this shredder is about the nature of the explosion, it is intended to be brought to the fore when a paper is ignited. If it is not used, the shredder should integrate into its environment. The WR 79.9 works via a system consisting of a gas cartridge, an electric igniter and a fan. At the push of a button on a remote control, gas is filled into an explosion chamber below the file in a defined time sequence and then ignited. The fan provides fresh air for the combustion on the one hand and on the other hand for an accelerated smoke extraction afterwards. The design of the document shredder is based on the Din A4 format commonly used in offices and administration. From this, the design has developed step by step through the test setups. Because of the low weight of the paper, it is stretched horizontally at its unprinted edges in a frame with burls. The paper thus closes the explosion chamber underneath. Nevertheless, with every explosion, parts of the paper edges are torn out of the frame by the pressure wave in order to provide the flame with sufficient surface to attack. When the paper burns, the fan in the bottom unit of the shredder switches on. Smoke escapes through a pipe attached to the lid, which can be hung outside through the tilted window. The shredder's handling is based on existing office equipment. For smoke extraction, the principle of ventilation pipes on mobile air conditioning systems is formally taken up. Extending up to two metres, the aluminium tube can be hung from a tilted window, or compressed to a length of 30 cm for transport. The flap to the paper system takes over the handling of scanners and the ash box is reminiscent of paper drawers of multifunctional devices. To make the explosion as open as possible, flame-retardant and transparent polycarbonate is used on all sides of the shredder.

What is special?

The public image of office spaces is grey and monotonous. Offices stand for places where routines are repeated and unwound, and where going to the coffee machine appears as an enriching change from the usual work. Since the turn of the millennium, when the era of cubicles came to an end, companies have been trying to take on the dreariness and improve the work situation through architecture or furnishings. Foosball tables, dartboards or hammocks are no longer a rarity in offices. Global companies like Google or Apple are pioneers in this development and go a even few steps further by offering their employees fitness centres or kindergartens on company campuses. The fact that more and more activities and objects, which are normally assigned to private households, are appearing in the office also blurs the boundaries between the two places. Coupled with the unstoppable networking, the step out of the office becomes only a symbolic one, if you receive business emails afterwards. While the basic idea of making everyday office life more pleasant may be a good one, it can also be seen as critical when offices become more and more like homes. With the WR 79.9 I try to create a counter-reaction to this trend by making the office life in itself more varied.

What is new?

An ordinary document shredder works for its use in offices by quietly and effectively blending into office environments. WR 79.9 makes the functioning of the shredder an exciting experience that stands up to everyday office routine.