reCYCLO: Architectures of Waste

Human beings have traditionally built enclosures from close-to-hand materials: tents from animal hides in the desert, log cabins in forests, stone huts in rocky areas, and so on. But the advent of our disposable culture in the mid-twentieth century has brought with it a new set of ‘local’ materials, disregarded and mislabeled as ‘waste’.

While much emphasis has been placed on recycling (recycling rates in the US are steady at 34%), many materials sent to recycling facilities are never recycled, and are instead sent to landfills or incinerators. These materials are untapped resources, available for (re)use, in need only of appropriate design strategies to harness them.

The reCYCLO studio will begin by understanding global and local trends in waste: How much waste is produced, where does it go, how is it processed? Through this research and through visiting local waste and recycling plants, students will begin to understand the economy and ecology of the waste world, and find weak points in which to intervene. Students will choose specific materials and forms (rebar, coat-hangers, polystyrene, paper …). Through understanding the materials’ formal, physical, temporal, economic, ecological properties, students will begin to aggregate/reformulate the resource into 1:1 scale building elements and architectural mockups. Students will participate in a pavilion design competition that not only uses the waste material, but that aims to rehabilitate it, changing it enough so that it can finally be reused or recycled. In the last project, students will consider the industry/architecture scale consequences of their proposals.

In addition to building on O’Donnell’s work with unconventional materials, the reCYCLO studio will feature three experts. Felix Heisel is partner at 2hs architects and engineers and head of research at the Sustainable Construction Chair at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He is co-author of the books Cultivated Building Materials (2017, Birkhäuser with Dirk Hebel), and Building from Waste: Recovered Materials in Architecture and Construction (2014, Birkhäuser, with Dirk Hebel and Marta H. Wisniewska). Dillon Pranger is the director of DPA as well as a senior designer at Jenny Sabin Studio. He has previously taught a studio on waste and architecture at Cornell University and is currently co-writing the book CYCLO: Architectures of Waste with Caroline O’Donnell. Martin Miller is a Professor of Practice at Cornell University and founding partner at Antistatics Architecture. Under the banner of OMG, he has collaborated with CODA on several projects that deal with material innovation. He is an expert in efficient design, fabrication, and computational design.