Waste in Transit

piranesi


“ALL ARCHITECTURE IS BUT WASTE IN TRANSIT” – a note taken by Jeremy Till during a lecture by Peter Guthrie; underlined and punched home with a couple of spare exclamation points.

In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough and Braungart write that most of what we call recycling is actually downcycling: materials are recycled in a form less usable and valuable than they were. They point out that these materials are still bound for the landfill, they just make a few extra stops on the way. They argue that all material productions need to be carried out with a view to its re-use. Up-cycling should be possible, or failing that, at least true recycling, where all materials can be separated out and used as nutrients for future technological, biological, or technobiological processes.

Till is struck by the particularity of Guthrie’s phrasing: Architecture is not potential waste, or future waste, but waste in transit: already waste. The abject connotations of the term are important. Waste is stronger than patina or weathering. It is a shame for something to be wasted (remind me to call someone a ‘wastrel’ some time). What does it mean to say that architecture is already waste? McDonough and Braungart are unashamedly and necessarily techno-progressives (not in the sense of a faith in unfettered technological progress, but in the sense that progress is essentially understood to be connected to the correct implementation of technology). Their hope is to eliminate the concept of waste. Guthrie’s observation, however, is for me more directly confrontational for architecture, because it also unveils the systems of classification and socially-derived definitions according to which material becomes coded as waste, dirt, detritus, or wreckage.

Cathcart, Fantauzzi and van Elslander, <em>Slump</em>, 1994. Twenty thousand discarded shoes assembled into a 16' cylinder, raised until it collapsed under its own weight.

Cathcart, Fantauzzi and van Elslander, Slump, 1994. Twenty thousand discarded shoes assembled into a 16' cylinder, raised until it collapsed under its own weight.

Cathcart, Fantauzzi, and van Elslander, <em>Slump</em>, 1994

Cathcart, Fantauzzi, and van Elslander, Slump, 1994

UPDATE: In some cases, very literally waste.

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2 thoughts on “Waste in Transit

  1. Wow, I’m such a fan of those three and yet have never seen this project before!

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