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Plastic: The Latest Architecture and News

Hong Kong Architects Convert Plastic Waste into Public Benches to Combat Pollution

The Shing Mun River in Sha Tin, a residential town in Hong Kong, has struggled with plastic waste pollution for years. Household waste that is not properly recycled will either end up in landfills or floating in the river. In 2018 almost 17 million plastic items, or 40,000 items daily, were found to be drained into the ocean via the Shing Mun River, mostly being food packaging, cutleries, and household plastic bottles. This quantity of plastic pollution in the river and surrounding environment could eventually jeopardize the natural ecosystem irreversibly.

What Is Plexiglass? The Protective Plastic Many Are Using to Combat Viral Spread

Although chemist and inventor Otto Rohm had first come up with the idea for plexiglass in 1901, it wasn’t until 1933 that the Rohm & Haas company first introduced it to the market under the trademark name Plexiglas. The material, which is considered a lightweight and shatter-resistant alternative to glass, has had a fascinating history and experienced a multitude of different uses in that time. Today, plexiglass continues to be utilized in new and interesting ways, including as a potential means with which to help combat coronavirus spread. Restaurants, stores, and other businesses have begun using plexiglass partitions as protective shields for both workers and customers, especially as cities and towns slowly reopen. Below, we dive into this unusual material, addressing its material properties, its history, and the ways it continues to be used today.

Open Call: Tomb of Waste

Plastic has a huge contribution in the making of the modern man. It has revolutionized human activity and living because of its versatility as a material. It made space travels possible. It has revolutionized medicine. Daily, it saves millions of people making food resources safe and accessible to the poorest populations of the planet. Modern life is addicted to and dependent on this versatile substance, which is found in everything from cars, planes, computers and equipment to clothes made of polyester and nylon, to the adhesive seal on most teabags.

Since 1950’s, plastic production has almost outpaced that of almost

Winners Announced for a School Made from Recycled Plastic in Mexico

Archstorming, an architectural platform that organizes international competitions, has released the results for the Tulum Plastic School contest. In fact, participants were challenged to design a school made of recycled plastic, tackling the current issue of pollution in Mexico.

Plastic Monument: An Architectural Call for our Planet

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YAC - Young Architects Competitions launches “Plastic Monument”, a competition of ideas aiming to create an itinerant architectural installation. It will travel all around the world to raise awareness about the impact of plastic waste on our planet. A cash prize of € 15,000 + realization of the 1st Prize will be awarded to winners selected by a well-renowned jury made of, among the others, Kengo Kuma, Carlo Ratti, Italo Rota, Mandy Barker, Maria Cristina Finucci.

What is ETFE and Why Has it Become Architecture's Favorite Polymer?

Until recently, the architecture world largely viewed plastic polymers as inferior building materials, handy for wipe-clean kitchen surfaces, but not practical in full-scale building applications. But with technological innovations driving material capabilities forward, polymers are now being taken seriously as a legitimate part of the architect’s pallet. One of the most widely-used of these materials is a fluorine-based plastic known as ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). Brought into the public consciousness thanks to its use on the facade of PTW Architects' Water Cube for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, architects are now realizing the film’s capabilities to express a new aesthetic and replace costlier transparent and translucent materials. Its most recent and spectacular public appearance was on the 120-foot telescopic shell of The Shed, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group in New York City.

© flickr user manusascorner, Licensed under CC BY 2.0SSE Hydro Arena / Foster + Partners. Image Courtesy of FiguerasAnaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center / HOK. Image © John LindenWatercube National Swimming Centre / PTW Architects. Image © flickr user garrettziegler, Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0+ 9

Zero Waste Lab 3D Prints Street Furniture from Household Plastic Waste 

The New Raw has launched the Zero Waste Lab in Thessaloniki, a research initiative where Greek citizens can upcycle plastic waste into urban furniture. Part of the larger Print Your City project, the project utilizes a robotic arm and recycling facilitates to create custom furniture pieces that close the plastic waste loop. The initiative aims to use flakes from recycled products to redesign public spaces within the cities.

Print Your City. Image © Stefanos TsakirisPrint Your City. Image © Stefanos TsakirisPrint Your City. Image © Stefanos TsakirisPrint Your City. Image © Stefanos Tsakiris+ 26

"Plastic Island" Imagines the Possibilities of Reusing Oceanic Waste in Architecture

Courtesy of Emily-Claire Goksøyr
Courtesy of Emily-Claire Goksøyr

With rising sea levels and incessant consumption of plastic, the state of the earth's oceans is rapidly deteriorating. Instead of discarding or burning this plastic, architects Erik Goksøyr and Emily-Claire Goksøyr questioned whether any architectural potential exists in this neglected material. By conducting an extensive material study, the duo designed three prototypes to postulate this theory. 

Though starting out as a humble thesis, this project is being actualized under the organization, Out of Ocean. From the shores of the Koster Islands in Sweden, plastic samples were collected and studied for their various material performance in areas such as color, texture, light, and translucency.

Courtesy of Emily-Claire GoksøyrCourtesy of Emily-Claire GoksøyrCourtesy of Emily-Claire GoksøyrCourtesy of Emily-Claire Goksøyr+ 36

Low-Budget Urban Garden Uses Local Materials to Bring Quito's Community Together

The social design from Natura Futura Arquitectura for a greenhouse in the warm subtropical climate of Nayón, Ecuador, the proposal approaches the use of local material resources in the construction of low-budget productive structures for the development of the collective.

The project, materialized with bamboo, wood and greenhouse plastic, is based on the basic geometrical figure of the triangle, proposing sectors with different levels of illumination for different types of farming.

Maqueta. Image Cortesía de Natura Futura ArquitecturaCortesía de Natura Futura ArquitecturaCortesía de Natura Futura ArquitecturaCortesía de Natura Futura Arquitectura+ 26

8 Common Materials You May Not Have Realized Are Sustainable

Sustainability. A word that, for many of us, has been driven into our minds from the very start of our careers as architects. We have a responsibility to the planet and future generations to design buildings that are socially conscious—from solar panels to triple-glazed windows, we have tried it all.

Ultimately, whether our designs are sustainable comes down to the early decisions we make for the building, with our choice of materials having a huge effect on the overall carbon footprint. With new technologies come new ways of incorporating abundantly found materials into the skin of the building that could reduce the building's embodied energy and enhance the structure's properties.

In this article, we have compiled a list of 8 familiar materials that you wouldn't initially associate with sustainability but which you might consider for your next design.

Housing Construction in Argentina Uses Recycled PET Bricks

The Fundación EcoInclusión - winner of the first prize in the regional competition Google.org Challenge - is an Argentine non-profit organization that was born in 2015, from the hands of a group of young people that promote the construction of a fairer, equitable and sustainable society.

Located in the Alta Gracia city, province of Córdoba, Ecoinclusión works in the reduction of PET bottles waste with the production of bricks made of plastic residues destined to the construction in vulnerable sectors, with the aim of generating environmental and social impact and cultural participation in the communities.

1,500 Semi-Transparent Plastic Baskets Form a Lightweight Facade

Hyunje Joo's design for a façade in South Korea is a proposal that addresses the separation between the interior and exterior with the construction of a flexible, light, and recyclable architectural element.

The project, a surface made up of 1,500 semi-transparent plastic baskets, diffuses the light and the silhouettes, while offering the ability to be reused with different configurations in different places.

This House was Built in 5 Days Using Recycled Plastic Bricks

Construction of house made of recycled plastic bricks.. Image Courtesy of Conceptos Plásticos
Construction of house made of recycled plastic bricks.. Image Courtesy of Conceptos Plásticos

Ten years ago when Colombian Fernando Llanos tried to build his own house in Cundinamarca, he realized that moving the materials from Bogota was going to be very difficult. After mulling it over, he decided to build his house out of plastic, and after a series of trials and errors, he ended up meeting architect Óscar Méndez, who developed his thesis on the same subject, and together they founded the company Conceptos Plásticos (Plastic Concepts) in 2011. 

The innovative local company managed to patent its system of bricks and pillars made of recycled plastic, which is then put together like Lego pieces in a construction system that lets you build houses up to two stories high in five days.

Temporary shelter in Guapi (Colombia) for 42 families displaced by armed conflict.. Image Courtesy of Conceptos PlásticosTemporary shelter in Guapi (Colombia) for 42 families displaced by armed conflict.. Image Courtesy of Conceptos PlásticosTemporary shelter in Guapi (Colombia) for 42 families displaced by armed conflict.. Image Courtesy of Conceptos PlásticosTemporary shelter in Guapi (Colombia) for 42 families displaced by armed conflict.. Image Courtesy of Conceptos Plásticos+ 16

From Recycled Plastic Waste to Building Material

Project.DWG and LOOS.FM have unveiled their PET pavilion, a temporary structure in a community park in The Netherlands that focuses on issues of sustainable building, recycling, and waste by rethinking the ways that buildings are developed, built, and used. Specifically, the pavilion is a study of the use of plastic waste as a building material.

Using the elevated framework of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, the structure consists of two monumental slabs in a steel framework. “From floor to ceiling, double-walled transparent corrugated sheets hold over 40,000 plastic bottles,” with bottle caps attached to bottlenecks supporting the system.

© Project.DWG / Artwork by Martin Oostenrijk© Marco van der Ruit / Artwork by André Boone© Project.DWG© Paul Clason / Artwork by Martin Oostenrijk+ 16

Margot Krasojević Architects Unveils Lace-Like 3D Printed Light Made of Recycled Plastic

In somewhat of a departure from its usual parametric, experimental work, Margot Krasojević Architects has created a recycled, 3D printed LED light, in an investigation of the importance of reappropriating plastics. The project—Lace LED—however, aligns with the firm’s exploration of renewable energy and environmental issues within architecture and product design.

Printed with post-consumer plastics like synthetic polymer packaging from takeout food containers and 3D printer off-cuts, Lace LED is a light diffuser with fractal pattern configurations resembling a piece of woven lace.

© Margot Krasojević© Margot Krasojević© Margot Krasojević© Margot Krasojević+ 12

16 Materials Every Architect Needs to Know (And Where to Learn About Them)

A building’s materiality is what our bodies make direct contact with; the cold metal handle, the warm wooden wall, and the hard glass window would all create an entirely different atmosphere if they were, say, a hard glass handle, a cold metal wall and a warm wooden window (which with KTH’s new translucent wood, is not as absurd as it might sound). Materiality is of just as much importance as form, function and location—or rather, inseparable from all three.

Here we’ve compiled a selection of 16 materials that should be part of the design vocabulary of all architects, ranging from the very familiar (such as concrete and steel) to materials which may be unknown for some of our readers, as well as links to comprehensive resources to learn more about many of them.