As architects we generally see ourselves as providers of new buildings; we also often see architecture as a way to remedy social ills. For many architects, when presented with a social problem, we try to think of a design for a building which addresses it. But what happens when the problem itself is a surplus of buildings?
This is exactly the situation that Detroit finds itself in today. Thanks to the rapid decline in population since its heyday in the mid 20th Century, the City of Detroit is home to some 78,000 vacant structures. While politicians worldwide win public support by promising new construction and growth, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing proudly announced his plans to demolish 10,000 empty homes before the end of his term.
The process will be inherently wasteful. Fortunately, some are making the best of the situation, with sustainable initiatives that create jobs and economic benefits for residents. Read on after the break to find out how.
“Open House” is artist Matthew Mazzotta‘s latest invention: a compact, faded pink house that unfolds into a ten-piece outdoor theater that seats nearly 100 people. Facing a raised earthen stage, it’s a public space made from the remnants of a privately owned blighted property. Reversing the loss of public space that the city of York, Alabama has experienced, Open House has transformed a wasted ruin of a house into an outdoor theatre open to various community events.
Back in February of this year, the non-profit arts organization FIGMENT asked “What would an art pavilion made out of recycled materials and based around the idea of ‘The City of Dreams’ look like to you?.” Brooklyn-based STUDIOKCA beat out over 200 other submissions in the competition with their Head in the Clouds pavilion, now open to the public on Governors Island in NYC.
A very wise man, Homer Simpson, once described alcohol as “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” While this may not necessarily be true for all problems, fifty years ago it seemed that beer was going to play a part in solving a housing shortage on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, thanks to a bizzare, yet socially conscious, piece of design.
Check it out after the break…
Shigeru Ban just can’t get enough of paper tubes. The Japanese architect, renowned for his design of structures that can be quickly and inexpensively erected in disaster zones, is at it again in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, which was hit hard by a devastating earthquake last February. The earthquake of magnitude 6.3 killed over 200 people and inflicted irreparable damage on the city’s iconic gothic cathedral of 132 years. The cathedral was a copy of one in Oxford, England, and was one of the most famous landmarks of the Christchurch, pictured on postcards, souvenirs and tea towels.
A pioneer in so-called “emergency architecture,” Shigeru Ban has begun construction on a highly anticipated, unique replacement: a simple A-frame structure composed of paper tubes of equal length and 20 foot containers. The tubes will be coated with waterproof polyurethane and flame retardants that the architect has been developing since 1986 – years before environmental friendliness and the use of inexpensive recycled materials were even a concern in architecture.
Read more about Ban’s visionary Cardboard Cathedral after the break…
Cook County, Illinois, recently brought the elimination of construction waste to a new level by creating the first demolition debris ordinance in the Midwest. This groundbreaking ordinance requires most of the debris created from demolition to be recycled and reused instead of being sent to the landfill. The ordinance helps contribute to Cook County’s zero waste goal, part of the Solid Waste Plan Update.
The new law states that at least 7 percent of suburban construction and demolition debris must be recycled, and an additional 5 percent must be reused on residential properties. This new legislation will have a great impact as it affects about 2.5 million suburban Cook County residents.
More after the break…
The Architectural Foundation of British Columbia (BC) has announced the five finalists of the 100 Mile House Competition. Similar to the well-known 100 Mile Diet, the 100 Mile House challenges participants to design a 1200-square-foot home using only materials and systems that are made, manufactured and/or recycled within 100 miles of the City of Vancouver. Many have questioned whether the 100 Mile House is a plausible solution in today’s modern cities (check out: The 100 Mile House: Innovative ‘Locatat’ or Just Plain Loca?). Be your own judge and review the finalists after the break.
If you could construct your house out of materials made, recycled, or found within 100-miles of your lot, would you? And if you did, would you feel proud that you never once stepped into The Home Depot? Would you tout the fact that you took an environmental stand, that you did your bit to help the world?
Would you have?
As we mentioned in February, The Architecture Foundation of British Colombia has launched a competition to construct the 100-mile House. Inspired by the 100-mile Diet of locavore fame, in which you only eat what is grown or harvested within 100 miles of your home, the 100-mile house challenges you to construct historically, “using only materials and systems made/ manufactured / recycled” within a 100 mile radius.
But is this method truly better for the environment? Or just another example of pretentious pseudo-greenery?
More after the break…
Located in rolling hills of Durbanville wine valley on the outskirts of Cape Town, Vissershok Primary School is a rural school dedicated to the children of farm workers and underprivileged communities living in Du Noon – a poverty-stricken township several kilometers away. Sponsored by three South African companies – Woolworths, Safmarine and AfriSam – the Vissershok Container Classroom is a 12 meter recycled container that was converted into an independent classroom for 25 Grade R (age 5-6) students. Continue reading for more.
“A Thousand Traps to Escape” is a temporary installation designed by 13 students from Laval University under Olivier Bourgeois in the Magdalen Islands in Quebec, Canada. The project builds on the collaboration of themes of architecture, art, landscape and installation in the creation of space based on simple materials, the landscape and “the basic rules of construction”. The “local material” chosen for this construction is the ubiquitous lobster trap made of wood and fishnet. Its formal simplicity allowed for an basic stacking technique that produced relatively complex visual results of transparencies and opacities.
Read on for more information on the development of this project.
Kanner Architects is collaborating with UMAMI Group, creating a concept restaurant called UMAMI KO (U-ko). The modular burger shack is meant to inhabit urban settings worldwide, creating a comfortable indoor/outdoor experience within an environmentally sensitive structure.
In today’s world “going green” has become a top priority in our society, and sustainable buildings and design are at the forefront of this green revolution. While many designers are focusing on passive and active energy systems, the reuse of recycled materials is beginning to stand out as an innovative, highly effective, and artistic expression of sustainable design. Reusing materials from existing on site and nearby site elements such as trees, structures, and paving is becoming a trend in the built environment, however more unorthodox materials such as soda cans and tires are being discovered as recyclable building materials. Materials and projects featured after the break.