Warehouse for Architectural Recycling (W.A.R.) / Department of Unusual Certainties

Warehouse for Architectural Recycling (W.A.R.) / Department of Unusual Certainties
W.A.R. Section

Department of Unusual Certainties was recently awarded honorable mention for their submission to Conditions Magazine’s Tell Them What They Need Competition, a competition which asked people to come up with alternatives for architectural competition practice. Their submission “Warehouse for Architectural Recycling (W.A.R.)” proposes a global institution which archives competition submissions and auctions them off to potential buyers elsewhere. A re-purposing of loser ideas. Follow after the jump for a comprehensive description of W.A.R. from DoUC.

W.A.R. Warehouse for Architectural Recycling (A Global Network for the Exaltation and Re-Appropriation of Loser Ideas)

The Garbage Can of Ideas

In the year 2012 super-genius Brad Pitt opens up a letter from a troubled architect. It reads:

“Dear Brad,

This year I have engaged in 12 ideas competitions. Throughout my fledgling practice, I have participated in 48 ideas competitions. A few have placed well, but all have led to nothing. My office has become a garbage can of ideas. When I look around to other studios I see an even larger garbage can. It seems that the entire profession is being swallowed up by a heap of unrealised projects. How can we stop from choking on our own filth? Looking to you for guidance and advice,

Sleepless in the Studio”

Mr. Pitt puts down the letter and thinks quietly too himself. The idea comes to him quickly: “If waste is the problem, why don’t we recycle?”

Rather than let the idea stew in the proverbial garbage can, Brad Pitt quietly sets out buying up the rights to past architectural competitions. Most competitions contain a clause that transfers the rights of the content of submissions to the competition holder. The competition holder rarely makes any use of these submissions and the submissions sit deadlocked, unable to ever be put to use. Mr.Pitt thus decides to become a modern-day Robin Hood by buying those rights and giving them back to the architect. In 2020 after buying up every single architectural competition ever held over the last 100 years. Mr. Pitt begins creating his W.A.R……..


W.A.R. is a global network that aims to exalt losing ideas of the past and find new applications for them. In its multiple capacities W.A.R. acts as an archive, curator, auction house, sales representive and research centre.

Archive: The vast collection of bought-up ideas is digitally and physically stored in an underground bunker at W.A.R.HEAD. Designed to withstand the worst nuclear winter, W.A.R.’s archive will offer future survivors a glimpse into the creative failures, curiosities, and overlooked wonders of the architectural world. The collection also forms the source material for all of W.A.R.’s other activities – curation, auctioning, and research.

Auction House: The central aim of W.A.R. is to find new uses for rejected competition ideas. W.A.R. facilitates an elaborate auctioning process, whereby special architectural agents are invited to raid the archives, root out prospective sale items, and contact potential clients to take part in an auction. A waterfront master plan originally intended for Kaohsiung, is bought up by the Perth Waterfront Development Corporation. A design for a vertical zoo designed for Buenos Aires is purchased by a wealthy animal-keeper in Hong Kong.

Since most projects will require tweaking in order to fit their new locales, the agent is also charged with the task of selling the skills of the architect, who will be granted the commission to prepare the drawings for the new location. The agent and architect split the winnings upon a successful sale. The client also gains in this transaction, as they’ve been spared the trouble and expense of holding their own competition and selection process for their commission.

Curation and Research: The garbage can of loser ideas that constitutes W.A.R.s archive offers an endless array of material for academic and curatorial investigation. The Curatorial Team is in charge of regularly searching through the archives and assembling thought-provoking exhibitions on trends that never took off, ideas that were never implemented, and other speculative dead-ends. The exhibitions take place at WAR.H.E.A.D and W.A.R.’s several satellite locations.

W.A.R also sponsors independent research for academics who wish to follow the threads of past speculative projects. Residencies are held at W.A.R.HEAD and research grants and special access to the archives are given out on a regular basis.

W.A.R. Headquarters (WARHEAD) is located on a remote rocky outcropping somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Its isolation is born out of the pretention of its maker to create a new pilgrimage destination for the architecture community. But rather than travelling to the ends of the earth to witness a piece of architectonic perfection, visitors at W.A.R.HEAD are greeted with an architectural anti-climax – a cheap assemblage of stacked corrugated metal boxes on a platform. The shell is designed to not steal the show from the loser ideas contained within, some of which are truly awful.

Projections – Upon landing at W.A.R.HEAD, one is immediately stricken by the ghostly images of what appear to be buildings lost at sea. Giant projectors at W.A.R.HEAD cast these images of life-sized competition losers onto the horizon to set the mood for the institute. The images last for one-minute before morphing into another. The Chicago Tribune Column gradually dissolves into the Aeroflot Building. The Jussieu Library becomes the Palace of Soviets – an endless stream of loser ideas.

Auction Hall  - W.A.R.’s main business takes place here. Auctions are held once a week with live feeds to all of W.A.R.’s satellite locations. Agents and client representatives battle it out for the highest bid on recycled commissions. Architects are notified when their loser idea is up for auction and can watch via live-feed with crossed fingers.

Agent Club House – Agents encourage potential clients to make the trip to W.A.R.HEAD, despite the fact that live feeds are also available. This is in order to give agents a chance to wine and dine the clients at the Agent Club House. Clients will also be given a tour of the facilities, and have a chance to view other archival pieces, which could be used for other commissions the client might have in mind.

Exhibition Hall  - All exhibitions begin at W.A.R.HEAD before embarking on a world tour. Examples of past W.A.R. exhibitions include “Impossible Cantilevers” and “When Parametrics Was Cool”

Virtual Tours – A special feature of W.A.R.HEAD is the Star Trek-inspired hollodeck, giving visitors an opportunity to explore architectural speculation in the virtual. One can walk through an individual building, or wander through an entire city filled with lost competition ideas. What would Burnham’s Chicago look like today? Or OMA’s Parc de la Villette? It is also a powerful sales technique as tours can be custom-programmed so that an architectural piece is placed in a new context giving clients an image of how an architectural idea can be re-purposed for their own benefit and use.

Research Centre – Regular grants and residencies are given out on a yearly basis to help academics advance their thesis projects. Academics can spend up to three months at W.A.R.HEAD contemplating the emptiness of the sea and the richness of the archives.

Archives – 40 metres below sea level encased in rock and concrete, W.A.R.s physical and digital archive is designed to withstand the worst global apocalypse. Not unlike the modern–day seed banks, which provide physical back-ups of plants species, W.A.R. will provide loser ideas to a future society whose architectural legacy has been decimated, should the apocalypse occur. Loser ideas will thus act as the seeds for a new post-apocalyptic architectural culture.

W.A.R.’s Organizational Details

W.A.R. Organizational Chart

In order to sustain itself W.A.R is a business. It employs thousands, the majority being the mounds of architects and stock brokers left to dwell in the darkest corners of the free market after the rescession of 2008. The organizational structure of W.A.R. is a hybrid between public and corporate bureaucracy. It is lead by a single entity known as the Supreme Commander who has the deepest hatred for micro-management, but has the final say on all decisions and dealings within the organization. W.A.R. has five main branches, each with a director whose sole purpose is to maintain the integrity and profitability of their assigned branch. The Directors serve at the will of the Supreme Commander and can be removed or reassigned at any time.

The five branches of W.A.R. are as followed:

  • The Department of Information: Motto- Ever Evolving.
  • The Department of Finance: Motto- Bears and Bulls are for Farmers.
  • The Department of Copyright and Acquisitions: Motto- Steal from the Rich and give to the Poor.
  • The Department of Auctionerring: Motto- Get More!
  • The Department of Sales: Motto- The market demands nothing so we give it something!
  • W.A.R. is a global network, whose structure is based on that of the world’s continents in order to function most efficiently and honestly (no place can be deemed uninhabitable). In what was the first order by the Supreme Commander W.A.R. geographers remapped each continent into 4 quadrants. These quadrants would be the basis of how W.A.R. would strategically layout its structure. Each continent possesses one auction house and four offices, one office per quadrant with the exception of Antarctica. It contains only an auction house located at Camp Odysseus, an unclaimed piece of land located deep within the continent.

    W.A.R.’s economy is based on the lucrative markets of copyright and intellectual property and its ability to regulate the supply and demand of its product. W.A.R. is honest and gives all clientele equal treatment, however like all successful companies, it is the foot soldiers and their daily decisions and product knowledge which secure any company’s future. W.A.R. buys low and sells high. Some observers believe W.A.R. and its tactics are bringing integrity back to the free market. W.A.R. workers are unionized and complain only when they feel it is a necessity.

    W.A.R. has a diverse range of clientele. It’s buyers include: Bill Gates, the People’s Republic of China, and many Euro-Vision winners. It is imperative for W.A.R.’s survival that the organization always be on the look out for the next big idea that will lose.

    Our buyers enjoy originality.

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    About this author
    Cite: Hank Jarz. "Warehouse for Architectural Recycling (W.A.R.) / Department of Unusual Certainties" 20 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/112978/warehouse-for-architectural-recycling-w-a-r-department-of-unusual-certainties> ISSN 0719-8884

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