The Architecture of Waste

This course will meet for the first time on Wednesday, September 2nd from 6 – 9 pm in room 510.

See note below regarding travel and associated costs for this limited-enrollment seminar.

Within many contemporary contexts, it would be fair to affirm that architecture and design have failed to play an instrumental role in the engineering and construction of industrial buildings. However the projected increase for countries such as Sweden, in the construction of industrial buildings within urban contexts to facilitate the transformation towards clean energy practices (such as waste to energy plants), presents an opportunity for a contribution from architects.

This seminar proposes to re-engage architects with waste and Waste-to-Energy facilities. Through the study of built and proposed WTE facilities the seminar will propose novel and effective ways to rethink the relationship of architecture, waste and energy production as they operate over a number of time scales— a (re)planned obsolescence. The course will focus specifically on a range of issues associated with these infrastructures, such as their building typologies, the review of contextual drivers and policies, and considered through the lenses of emerging trends in technology and design,

Geographic influences, policies and cultural approaches to waste management and the insertion of renewable energy infrastructure in urban or peripheral environments will be studied. Our primary field of investigation will be in Sweden and the US. We will deliberately study two diverging examples, with on the one hand: northern European countries that obtain close to 50% of their energy mix from WTE and the on the other: the United States which currently only generates 5% of their energy from waste. We hope to explicate the socio-economic and cultural dimensions that, in these two examples, either enable or limit the implementation of a practice of renewable energy generation from a constant and abundant supply: waste.

The course structure covers a broad spectrum of architectural and design issues related to industrial buildings and will include a series of lectures by guest speakers and various stakeholders in the design of WtE facilities (both from the US and Sweden). The course will also involve a field trip to Sweden where we will not only visit a number of state of the art WtE plants but will also benefit from the opportunity to meet and have discussions with designers, engineers, operators and industry representatives.

Learning from the issues covered in the course, students will develop a report that outlines both the strategy and feasibility for initiating hybrid combinations between the industrial infrastructure associated with the waste to energy process and other potential public or private programs as well as functions that may benefit from this synergistic relationship. Strategies for how these structures may be sensitively integrated within dense urban fabrics or locating ways of leveraging the spatial qualities of the infrastructure or byproducts of the energy production process will be projected, studied and evaluated in the course.

This course is part of a three-year sponsored research project at the GSD and it includes a week-long fieldtrip to Sweden.

Students enrolled in this course will be term billed $300, in addition to the cost of meals and incidentals (including visas, etc).