Category Archives: Uncategorized

Patchwork Receives Public Engagement Award

Patchwork Collective recently received an “honorable mention” award in Syracuse University’s CAPS awards! The CAPS awards are handed out by the Chancellor’s Office at Syracuse University each academic year.

“Syracuse University puts bold ideas in motion through Scholarship in Action – an educational approach that matches the vigorous pursuit of knowledge with the ability to make a difference in the world through community engagement. The Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement & Scholarship (formerly known as the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service – CAPS), recognizes the committed students at Syracuse University who exemplify Scholarship in Action. This award acknowledges individual students, groups of students, residence halls, residences floors, student organizations, and academic projects or classes who invest themselves in and contribute to the public good. All faculty and staff are encouraged to nominate individual students and groups.”

Patchwork Collective is extremely grateful to Prof. Lair of Syracuse’s School of Architecture for nominating us for our efforts and accomplishments to this date. Without his aid, direction, and support, we’d still only be talking about Patchwork. We hope that this is only the beginning of what is to come. Thanks everyone for your support! Let us know what you think about the work we’re doing and how you see us changing or doing things differently if you have a chance.

The Spring thaw is upon us, so we’re looking to continue work and make progress on projects and expansion across the board. Wish us luck!


Patchwork’s visit to Deleware Academy of Discovery

A few weeks ago, Patchwork Collective had another opportunity to follow up with Mrs. Kusak-McGuire’s 3rd grade class at Delaware School of Discovery in the near west side of Syracuse. Their class project these past few weeks had been to design and build a green home. Many of the kids showed immense imaginations and unbelievable capacity to design these complicated structures by learning and using principles of passive design, knowledge of how green technologies work, and creativity for material reuse. They even had 3-d digital models created using google sketchup software! That’s right, 3rd graders using digital modeling technology! (after a quick tutorial from Patchwork of course)

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Our experience with the students was great: we always had plenty of questions to answer from any 3 students at a time.

We’re so proud of the students work that they have done, and glad that principles of passive design and most importantly reusing materials in building construction are being drilled at such an early age. All the credit should go to Mrs. Kusak-McGuire for creating the curriculum for this project and adding several layers to the project’s complexity. We truly hope the students enjoyed this project, and who knows, with a lot of hard work and passion someday a few budding architects, engineers, and policy makers might come out of Mrs. Kusak-Maguire’s class.

Happy 2010! / Dwell-rethinking recycling

First of all, Patchwork would like to wish everyone a happy 2011! Yes, we are a few days/weeks belated, but nevertheless, we’d still like to wish everyone a happy new year. We’ve come a long way since our launch earlier in 2010, so we hope you’re still following us with the same vigor since the first time you heard about us. Jimmy and Cameron have just finished their thesis work at Syracuse University, which consumed plenty of their time and energy this past fall, and they’re beginning to regroup and stretch their aspirations for Patchwork once again.

So for the first post of the new year, it was appropriate we bring to your attention the newest issue of Dwell Magazine, a publication which many of you might already be familiar with one way or another. We recommend checking it out everynow and then at your nearest bookstore when you have a chance.

image courtesy of

If you may have thought we were trying to think up something revolutionary here at Patchwork Collective, well, you can think again. Just one look at Dwell’s cover will tell you that recycling/salvaging our collective waste to be used again in our built environment, has officially made it into mainstream culture. Dwell Magazine this month has spotlighted several projects, architects, and designers from around the country that have come to the realization that this resourcefulness in the design of our built environment is turning out to be a necessity, and it just so happens that it also saves money as an added bonus! There are now plenty of architects/designers out there doing exactly what we’ve been doing: thinking about our waste streams in a new light. We’re not saying it has become pop-culture yet, but there is so much more worth to using materials that have a story, a narrative that can inspire curiousity just by its tangibility. That’s what we get excited about here at Patchwork. Our creativity and inventiveness to reestablish/repurpose new lives and new narratives for these salvaged materials we would typically be sending to our landfills is what drives us.

There is no doubt, we are definitely starting to see more and more news stories everyday that are coming out of the design industry recognizing the importance of this industry, revealing the real opportunities that are starting to be realized by tinkerers, creative individuals, and entreprenuers like us. Being a part of this young industry is what keeps us optimistic that someday it will eventually become commonplace to rethink how materials can be given another life, reinvesting that value back into our communities. Instead of sending this salvaged material to build a new topographic eyesore (landfills), let’s use it to rebuild our existing topographies: our civic spaces, homes, streets, and communities we already take for granted. Let’s lay a strong foundation for the new generations, new reiterations of ideas, and different methodologies of designed recycling to see this very young industry thrive.

project .003 progress

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Some photos of the disassembly phase progress of our latest project .003- a decommissioned moving truck bed transformed into an outdoor roof deck garden.

formerly urban: projecting rustbelt futures

Today is the last day the Syracuse School of Architecture will be featuring the “formerly urban” symposium. If you have time, you should stop by and check it out. Below are some links to information regarding the event.

formerly urban schedule of events

press release

Patchwork Collective featured in GreenCNY section of Post Standard

photo by Dennis Nett of the Post Standard

The Patchwork Collective  was featured this week in the current issue of Green CNY in an article written by Marie Morelli of the Post Standard.

“The fix for Syracuse’s falling-down housing: ‘A little Patchwork'” Green CNY, Post Standard

We’re very excited about the progress of our larger vision to make all the gears of the deconstruction industry in Syracuse start to move as one to prove the effectiveness of our place in this process. We’re seeing our path to market emerge with the smaller projects we’ve completed that are already diverting waste from our landfills- yet we remain determined to realize the full potential of Patchwork’s capacity with the current and future larger scaled projects we are and will be working on. For us, larger projects = more waste diverted from the landfill = a win/win situation for everyone involved. Overall, we want to extend the life of these materials that are unnecessarily being stripped of that opportunity.

the great building heist

Youtube: Brick Theives in North St. Louis

Youtube: The Brick Eaters

NY Times: Can You Steal a Whole Building? Thieves Cart Off St. Louis Bricks

The term curb appeal has now, officially, gained new meaning. The illegal harvesting of bricks, a relatively new phenomenon in cities like Cleveland and Detroit, has detrimental effects on any kind of recovery or revitalization hopes. Where these bricks were once manufactured on macro scales, they are now being harvested from crumbling facades across the country to supply the demand in other parts like New Orleans. The Bricks are claimed to be sought after by “developers throughout the south for their quality and craftsmanship.”

In some cases these “building thieves” harvesting these highly sought after bricks, have taken down entire buildings that are publicly owned. As Mr. Moore in this article pointed out, “The whole block is gone — they stole the whole block…They’re stealing entire buildings, buildings that belong to the city. Where else in the world do you steal an entire city building?” So this seems to be yet another great example of urban mining and material extraction from once thriving cities that now are seeing their built landscape disappear literally “brick by brick.”

The opportunities for people to mine value from the built landscape has happened for centuries. In fact, it reminds me of the many pilfered remains of roman and greek ruins while in Europe. So many of the once pristine monuments were mined for the metals that once held the stones of these great buildings together. Now we can see the remnant holes that riddle the facades that are still standing.

There are a few things we could take from this article.

One. There is a much higher demand for the archeaology of things made in the past, and the processes required to make them that just aren’t a part of the products we buy today. The lengths that people will go to, proven by this article, to make these materials available to people demanding them is very telling of what is missing from our products today. There is no story or archeology behind them…

Two. We now have to give kudos to the Romans. We severely overlook the useful lifespan of the clay brick. How many times could a brick be usefully applied to different applications. Its ability to be disassembled (albeit, a pretty labor intensive disassembly) and maintain its form and function throughout are outstanding. It seems to retain a value as well- which is especially nice considering the amount of energy that goes into firing these things.

Three. How do we keep the supply and demand for this material within the same locale? Instead of taking bricks from Detroit and selling them in New Orleans where the higher demand is, how could one legally sell them for the same price in Detroit? Why not use the bricks to repair many of the other buildings before they succumb to conditions beyond disrepair? That way Detroit could keep the material equity and value within the city, just have it redistributed to revitalize other deteriorating conditions.

Four. The fact that something as simple as a fire hose and water spray is a part of the adhoc stolen brick market’s disassembly process is just plain cool. Now we’re not condoning illegal business practices, but you have to admit, it is pretty interesting.

project .001 completed!

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Our first project was recently finished and our other projects on the boards are continuing toroll along towards completion!

Project .001, done for a client in Liverpool was merely a table that had used some of the red oak hardwood planks taken from the Hafner’s barn mentioned in our previous blog post. We were so excited about fabricating this table because it allowed us toutilize our design knowledge to really hone in on the details at a furniture scale.  The client wanted to be able to take the table apart for the winter and reassemble it every year, so the hardware we used only requires 2 tools (a hammer and a wrench) to re/disassemble. Aside from the gorgeous wood we used for the table top, we harvested steel that had been previously holding up bleachers inManley Field House, one of Syracuse University’s athletic facilities. The history we’ve embedded within this project through the materials used was a request of the client and something that we really like about our job. We’re really happy to be able to say that the values of this table go beyond purely economic ones, it preserves many historical and archaeological values inherent in the material too.We essentially have the power to recreate/restore/preserve historical narratives that already have momentum.

There will be more pictures to come, we’ll be photographing this project when the client is done using it for the winter…

From these smaller projects, we’re starting to realize the larger our projects are, the more usable material waste we can save from going to our landfills! Sounds pretty logical don’t you think?

Catching up with D-Build

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Patchwork went to scope out the disassembled Hafner’s Barn at the corner of Taft Rd. and Buckley Rd. that was deconstructed by Buffalo Reuse. They have pallets, and pallets, and pallets of deconstructed building materials that are up for sale if you are interested. To get a better look at what is available go to D-Build’s website. These guys have some really beautiful material out there and it’s just waiting for a new owner to bring it home and create something out of it. I know that’s exactly what we’re doing here at Patchwork! We bought about 55 linear board feet of red oak hardwood and it has the most beautiful patina and historical features to it (old sawmill circular saw textures). Very soon it will be cut down and used on a 5’x5′ table along with some steel we managed to salvage from the demolition/deconstruction of the Manley Field House on Syracuse Campus.

If you know anyone that might be interested in a DIY project or any other project that could potentially reuse harvested wood from this barn, please contact the guys at D-Build

syracuse’s vacant building problem

“Her 5-year-old son accidentally started the fire at 426 Rich St., Syracuse, with a lighter as Baker watched helplessly from a neighbor’s yard. Her 13-year-old son tried to douse the fire with a bucket of water, but it spread too quickly, according to a fire department report. Both boys made it out safely.

The house didn’t fare as well. It instantly joined a list of more than 1,600 vacant structures in Syracuse.

The city’s demolition inspector said there’s no one reason a house becomes vacant. “Every house has a story,” Ted Koagel said.

Some are abandoned after fires, broken dreams or bad investments. Others have owners who died with no one left to take over. Some languish after being neglected by absentee owners.

The city spends about $1 million — all in city taxpayer money — to raze about 80 homes a year like 426 Rich St. Non-profits and private homeowners also do about 20 to 30 demolitions, Koagel said.

But demolition can take years and countless hours by lawyers, city workers, a Supreme Court judge and private contractors. A vacant house must undergo checks for ownership, asbestos and historic significance, among other hurdles.

Nearly $500,000 in federal stimulus money has also paid for 23 demolitions in the past year. About $100,000 of that went toward tearing down a North State Street building this spring that crumbled onto Interstate 81, closing the highway and frustrating 50,000 commuters for weeks. The state eventually picked up most of the $467,000 tab.

See a list of all demolitions budgeted in the past year in Syracuse. (Note: Some dollar figures are estimates. The last category includes stimulus money given to non-profits, such as Home Headquarters Inc., for demolitions.)

Homeowners are charged for the demolition, but less than 10 percent ever pay, officials said. Some of the bills are sent to homeowners who have since died or to corporations that no longer exist.”

excerpt taken from an article written by Douglass Dowty who writes for the Post Standard, pub. july 14, 2010

read the full article here.

Syracuse has a growing vacant building syndrome- with each new abandoned building providing a new story into how owners can allow such beautiful homes to sit there as if freezing them in time. Some landlords just don’t understand that houses are like anything in life, if you don’t properly maintain them, they will slowly deteriorate and decay- physically and fiscally.

Over 1,600 homes (and counting according to this article) lie abandoned, vacant, and in a state of decay.  Now take a minute to think how many forests, factories, energy, time, labor, and money that originally went into making these homes that were, at one point in time, brand new fully viable shelters for a family(ies) to live in. Now visualize all of the money (from taxpayers like you), time, labor, and energy it will require to demolish these built structures just to see the material end up as C&D waste on its way to any number of C&D landfills. Let’s not even mention the newly voided lots primed for yet another cycle/round of manufacturing, energy & resource use! This is just criminal- it’s a crime to humanity, it’s a crime against nature, and it’s a crime to those who could use this C&D material to revitalize their own property saving it from the place where these 1,600 homes will soon end up (the landfill).

What if we harvested and reused only a small fraction of these homes’ building material to patch the rest of the homes to save them from their current destined resting place (C&D landfills), and save the tax payers money and create a few jobs in the mean time?

The Patchwork Collective was pretty happy to see this article published on the front page of the Post Standard- giving the issue a fair amount of focus. We were especially happy to see this urban blight story framed in a “glass half-empty or glass half-full” perspective. This problem we see in Syracuse is characteristic of what we can see happening in many post-industrial, rustbelt cities now. It requires decisive, responsible, and reactive thinking on our policy-makers parts, as well as a can-do attitude to implement and execute thoughtful urban renewal strategies. It requires a solution that is derived from outside the box thinking. It requires connecting the constellation of dots that aren’t yet connected.

These homes/buildings that are being demolished/deconstructed are only inflating our waste disposal capacities, leaving behind them vacant spaces within the fabric of our city. Lets minimize this problem by sustainably, and efficiently creating a strategic deconstruction plan so that the material coming from these abandoned structures can be reinvested back into our communities to the fullest effect. Let’s try our best to avoid giving Syracuse a smile with missing teeth.