Tag Archives: reuse

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 dwell.com

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

landscapes of assembled mineral resources

source: fig. 2.13 & 2.14 from Fernandez’s Material Architecture ch. 2 pgs 44-70.

“When one considers the compounding effects of the long life of buildings (and infrastructure) and their large and material intensive bulk, it is not surprising that construction has resulted in sprawling landscapes of assembled mineral resources. The extraordinary efforts of previous societies to mine and process the mineral wealth of the world have left us with a huge bounty of material embodied within the structure, skin, and internals of our buildlings.”

– Jose Fernandez, Material Architecture: emergent materials for innovative buildings and ecological construction. 2006.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?