The world population today stands at 7.6 billion generating at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste in just a day! It is expected that the population would reach a figure of 9.8 billion in 2050 and the amount of waste that we would be producing every day is unimaginable. The threat that comes from things getting obsolete sooner than ever is growing numbers of landfills and dumpsites. These are often the overlooked parts of the cities and sites that people do not directly engage with, resulting in a lack of awareness about it. Landfills and dump sites pose a serious threat to the environment by destroying natural ecosystems and affecting human health as well. This article aims to investigate how architects can directly engage with the crisis of increasing waste production by tapping into industrial, infrastructural, and environmental realms of architecture.
While the widely practiced architecture today deals with real-estate issues, there is a need for innovation and design in the functional architecture that aims at dealing with environmental solutions at hand. Following are the works of architects who have explored and showed the value of design in infrastructural architecture –
1. Incineration Line in Roskilde, Erick van Egeraat
The plant is an iconic representation of the Kara/Noveren’s next-generation incineration line that would incinerate waste from nine municipalities and other places from abroad to produce clean electricity and heat that would power the entire region of Roskilde. The façade of the plant consists of two layers – the inner skin acts as a climate barrier and the second skin has a circular pattern cut-out on aluminum plates. “At night the backlight perforated façade transforms the incinerator into a gently glowing beacon – a symbol of the plant’s energy production.” The overall design is based on purely simple and elegant construction details, clean angles resembling the neighboring factories, and the 97-meter high spire dominating the skyline.
2. Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility / Selldorf Architects
The Facility is a processing center for the curbside recyclable waste of metal, glass, and plastic, located on a waterfront pier in Sunset Park. The design has two distinct programs – a recycling center and an educational center. The two functions are connected via a 70ft long bridge. The site actively engages in habitat restoration, storm-water treatment, water-efficient landscaping, renewable energy, and optimizing natural lighting. It is built over four feet of site fill consisting of recycled glass, asphalt and rock reclaimed from subway construction.
3. Waste-To-Energy Plant in Shenzhen, Schmidt Hammer Lassen And Gottlieb Paludan
The world’s largest waste to energy plant is to be constructed in Shenzhen, China that would handle 5000 tons of waste per day within a simple, clean, and iconic structure. The project would not only incinerate waste but also teach residents about waste to energy cycle. The circular form structure would organize the entire plant as well as the auxiliary buildings under one roof as opposed to the traditional rectangular factory designs. The large roof would have photovoltaic panels providing the opportunity for the plant to generate clean renewable energy.
3. Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Support Facility, Skylab Architecture
The building has a jagged roofline which is oriented radially along the path of the sun. There are 7 concrete fins in the roof covered with vegetation and clerestory windows snuggled between the sawtooth roof. The windows provide natural daylight and ventilation to the interiors. The downward fold drains the landscaped roof runoff into a berm, on the south façade, and bioswales, returning the stormwater to the Columbia Wastewater treatment. The building’s hydronic system will connect to the plant water flow, efficiently heating and cooling.
4. CopenHill Energy Plant and Urban Recreation Center, BIG
Amager Bakke or CopenHill is an excellent example of interactively engaging citizens with the waste to energy plant. The CopenHill, as the name suggests creates a man-made hill in the otherwise flat landscape of Copenhagen and provides its citizens with a surface to ski-on. The 41000 sq. m industrial plant has précised positioning and organization of its machinery in height order, creating an efficient sloping rooftop for ski terrain. While ascending the slope from the glass elevators, one can get a glimpse inside the 24-hour operations of a waste incinerator. The plant converts 4,40,000 tons of waste annually into clean energy and delivers electricity and heat to nearly 1,50,000 homes.
5. Urban Solid Waste Collection Central in Spain, Vaillo + Irigaray
The USWC is analogous to the ‘biological – stomach’, compacting waste from the surrounding areas. It acts as an intermediate stage between the waste produced from a house to the treatment/recycling center. It segregates the waste and packages it differently so that it can be then sent out to the appropriate recycling center. The structure is clad with sheets of recycled aluminum cans and painted in the shades of green. Unlike other industrial buildings, the facility co-exists with the city and doesn’t hide unlike its counterparts and also doesn’t turn a blind eye to the environment.
6. Sydhavns Recycling Center, BIG
An artificial hill that would be a recycling center in its center and a grassy park on its top. The infrastructure facility would be an active and lively urban recreation. The recycling center would be in the figure of an eight, a sunken plaza that would have two banks of recycling bins, laid out as a pair of roundabouts. The north-east corner would have a tunnel-like opening that would act as an entrance/exit for vehicles to circumnavigate the spaces.
Some architects have dealt with waste by directly treating the landfill through dumpsite remediation or converting landfills into the park through minimal architectural interventions. However, one thing that requires utmost attention is the need to create awareness and sensitivity towards this issue. Architectural interventions can reach a lot of people and sensitize people towards waste production and management as well as encourage people to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
7. Fresh Kills Park in New York, James Corner
Fresh Kills Landfill opened in 1947 along the western coast of Staten Island, tidal creeks and coastal marsh. By 1955, it became the world’s largest landfill receiving 29,000 tons of trash every day. James Corner won the design competition for the transformation of Fresh kills landfill to reclaimed wetlands, recreational facilities, and landscaped parkland. The park has five main areas namely – the confluence, north park, south park, east park, and west park. Each part has its unique attributes, habitats, and amenities. It would generate and use renewable sources of energy and make the shoreline publicly accessible & restrict commercial activities to the center of the site. The project offers active recreational uses such as kayaking, sports field, open-air markets, visitor center, restaurants, and lots of other amenities.
8. Ariel Sharon Park in Tel Aviv
The 125-acre landfill mountain similar to Freshkills would be converted into a central park for Israel’s most populated urban area. It will reclaim lost natural systems by integrating new and innovative water management techniques and offer a range of landscapes and recreational opportunities.
9. Archifest Zero Waste Pavilion in Singapore, WOW Architects
The installation ‘WonderWall’ is a zero-waste pavilion that reuses a simple material Versiweb to create extraordinary functions and engage the public in uniquely interactive ways. The mesh acts as a membrane creating intriguing spaces with more effect and allowing natural ventilation, as well as providing shelter from rain and sun. It encourages pop-up farming, and Zero waste strategies that can be easily displayed on the membrane. “The cellular nature of the mesh system forms intimate space or crenellations in which seeds of thought are propagated and nurtured.”