Architecture and Waste: A (Re)Planned Obsolescence

Architecture and Waste: A (Re)Planned Obsolescence. As the world’s population and urbanization rate rapidly expands, the need for architects’ engagement in the industrial and infrastructural realm becomes increasingly urgent. Yet, with the exception of a few cases, architects remain conspicuously absent from the conception, design, and implementation of such projects.

With the knowledge collected in Architecture and Waste, derived from two years of intense design research, we investigate, explore, and challenge the roots of this divide, seeking opportunities to reverse it by focusing on the Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility.

In the context of this subject, WtE facility buildings bridge (in scale, function, and output) the gap between conventional industrial buildings (factories) and large-scale infrastructural facilities (such as airports and power stations). Using WtE infrastructure as a manageable vehicle, we demonstrate that, when approached from an architectural perspective, building types associated with WtE offer tremendous opportunities for innovation, creativity, and community enrichment.

Architecture and Waste is a project developed in two fronts.
First, the aim of the research is to serve as a guide for architects as they engage in the design of buildings in the industrial and infrastructural field. Initiated as a design research effort at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and sponsored by the Sven Tyréns Trust, this material embodies a precise and replicable methodology to assist architects as they approach these project types, since often viewed as existing outside the purview of contemporary practice.

Second, the work functions as a detailed resource for architects and others involved with WtE facility design. It contains an inventory of WtE components and their requirements, as well as an illustrative catalog of WtE plant design strategies, tactics, and spatial configurations. As both a general and targeted guide, and as the subtitle (Re)Planned Obsolescence suggests, this body of work also questions the concept of architectural waste and investigates opportunities for buildings to remain in use, even after their initial functions become obsolete.

As part of the work, an Option Studio was taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design during the Spring of 2016.The studio focused on the development of architectural designs that outline both the strategy and feasibility for initiating hybrid combinations between the industrial infrastructures associated with the WtE process and other potential public or private programs, as well as functions that may benfit from this synergistic relationship. The scope of the intervention included sites in Sweden and the United States, countries that have different stages of engagement with WtE facilities.

The results of the project are published in the book Architecture and Waste: A (Re)Planned Obsolescence.