Waste Is a Thief: TRASHBUILDINGS
Time has proven that basic forms are effective. Innovation has too often been driven by excess, with overuse of resources resulting in incalculable environmental consequences. The benefits of modern approaches can be gleaned and recombined with primitive design, allowing humans to reassess not only our perceived needs, but also to re-contextualize concepts such as technology and progress. To think that a structure can currently improve our relationship with the Earth is idealistic—but to think that it can be more environmentally sympathetic to its surroundings is not. An Appropriate Technology for a post- industrial society will be a system of ‘low-tech’ solutions comprised of variable and interchangeable tectonics. Through a ‘Catalogue of Moves’, the transformation of abandoned post-consumer goods into building stock will give value to waste. When we learn to build out of garbage, waste will cease to exist. Through this process, we will empower people to take personal responsibility, challenge the comfort objective—physically, culturally, psychologically and aesthetically. A new aesthetic framework will be created through an environmental ethic.
Shelter is a basic human need. A sustainable shelter’s function may vary according to the circumstances and conditions under which it is built, whether for daily living, waiting for the bus, or an emergency. Its endless possibilities are governed by balancing the level of permanence, enclosure, economy and comfort provided. Regardless of size, program, and aesthetic, we can, at the end of the day, judge a shelter by the level of protection it offers—be it from wind, rain, extreme temperature, etc.
sustainability The most ecologically responsible thing to do is nothing. Placing a structure in the landscape is most often akin to an organ transplant gone catastrophically wrong. Everything natural rejects man’s intervention and the effects of this rejection have massive environmental implications. If we must build, how do we do so with the least impact possible? Virgin material should be used as little as possible unless it is 100 percent renewable through non-industrial processes. Can all traces of the structure be erased and its components recycled through material breakdown and re-manufacture, or better yet, re-use in their current form? Garbage is readily available. Why not build from waste objects that are otherwise impossible to recycle, or require heavy industrial process to do so? We could simply make do in the woods with a waterproof suit, a tent, or a lean-to constructed by found material on site. It is the “comfort objective” that dictates more intervention, more material and labor capital, and more permanence. We must redefine the necessary minimum in order to determine where to stop. This will never occur until we have a culture whose first priority is a truly symbiotic relationship with itself and the Earth. It will take a culture that sees waste as a thief; we must become willing to sacrifice a few steps on the comfort ladder to realize an ecologically sound system that fosters greater interaction between humans and their environment. Radical, systemic change is imperative.
CONTEXT The site context is peripheral. It is considered nature, but it is merely that which has not yet been developed. The vernacular is the urban, the infrastructural, and the man-made. It is a fortress that attempts to withstand the pressure exerted by its more technologically advanced neighbor, the city. To use the natural resources without industrial process is responsible. To purchase a 2x4 and call it natural is absurd. To shape a structure to mimic forms in nature is merely camouflage. The process of shaping, twisting, and bending—out of some romantic notion of relating to the organic—is wasteful form-making. The structure will be what it is. It will attempt harmony with nature in the sense that it is honest, and seeks to create a dialog with its surroundings based on an ethic, not an aesthetic. Our culture can no longer afford to be sensitive aesthetically; we must now be sensitive ethically and environmentally. What used to look ugly will look beautiful when we change our ethical perspective. We do not do not propose to focus on the ethical and disregard the aesthetic. We propose to forge a new aesthetic framework based on a new set of ethics.
CATALOG OF MOVES Establish moves based on opportunity, desired comfort, and permanence level. Develop modular techniques based on opportunistic material acquisition, ease of construction, and minimization of virgin material use. Moves that have performance: water collection, transparency, storage, seating, windscreen, educational, sliding, tilting, shifting, opening, pivoting, etc. Each piece of material can serve interchangeably as different components of a shelter. Pieces together can be assembled into multifunctional units, which are also interchangeable. These units can be assembled in a plethora of configurations. We are presenting a process, not a product. The structures shown are possible configurations of a system to illustrate ‘moves’ and various levels of enclosure and permanence. The actual structure will be based on circumstance and opportunity through material acquisition and experimentation.
methods for material acquisition During the second round we propose the creation of a “harvest map” to map out locations of free material in the greater Philadelphia area. We will employ students and local activists to be a part of the process through a “waste is a thief” propaganda campaign. We plan to source most material through salvage yards, farms, construction sites and dumpsters. Our budget will be used for fasteners, minimal amounts of virgin material, (if any) as well as transportation and ‘propaganda’ to make this not only a structure, but an event with community involvement. When the materials make it into the final structure, the harvest map will be included to show where they came from, creating a structure that is a poster child for waste re-use- a design that can be copied, improved, or added to by anyone. Material tectonics will be used to communicate levels of waste- bar graphs with bamboo or other pipe goods, plastic water bottles to show amount of water used in various countries, etc. The building will be interactive in its inception, construction, and final use.