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STYLE: STYLEMAKER : The Mix Master

David Hertz invites companies to leave out their trash for him to collect, or to dump it--carefully sorted, please--on his doorstep. He’ll grind it up as a decorative addition to Syndecrete, his lightweight concrete, and sell it back to them. Copper wire from electronic components is embedded in the reception desk he made for the Sony New Technologies building in Culver City. The floors he devised for a South Korean department store serve as environmental graphics: golf tees in sports equipment, nuts and bolts in hardware, video spools in home electronics.

When the architect-inventor established his company, Syndesis, in Santa Monica 12 years ago, one of its first products was a concrete made with ash and other lightweight natural mineral fillers instead of heavy rocks and sand. Since then, Hertz’s funky studio-workshop of 20 assistants has produced tiles and tabletops that incorporate pencils and brass screw shavings, Swatch watch components and the centers of eyeglass frames. Some of the surfaces even bear the imprint of bubble wrap or fallen leaves. “I see trash as a resource that can be reused in a creative way,” Hertz says. “I’m taking something that’s usually dumped or blended together, and adding value. The color variations and irregularities become positive attributes, like the flakes in recycled paper.”

With no competitors to speak of, Syndesis has demonstrated exciting recycling possibilities in America, Europe and Asia, but its impact on the growing mountain of solid waste is marginal. Still, Hertz has a vision, which he summarizes as RIMBY--Recycle In My Back Yard. “Things that people need used to be made locally--and could be again,” he insists. “Environmental enterprise zones could be established to sort and recycle waste. You could create jobs, save on transportation and make better use of what you’ve got.”

All that holds him back from this crusade is the fear of being typecast as a one-idea guy. A 34-year-old graduate of the Southern California Institute of Architecture who worked with Frank Gehry and the late John Lautner, he wants to spend more time designing innovative, ecologically responsible buildings. He is remodeling a 1950s ranch house in Bel-Air as a case study in natural materials, energy efficiency and recycled building elements. And he is designing a Malibu house with thick, fireproof walls of rammed earth and concrete, which he describes as “a new way of using an old technique.”

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“As an apprentice to Lautner, a visionary architect, I saw how he was frustrated by the system,” Hertz says. “Luckily, I’ve found clients who have allowed me to put my beliefs into practice and to do well by doing good.”


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