No I am not referring to your parents’ house in the suburbs. I am talking about buildings constructed from items destined for the landfill. With the Jellyfish Theater recently opening up in London, “junkitecture” has resurged as a topic of conversation and as a popular media focus. The Jellyfish Theater boasts a 120 seat theatre made up of entirely recycled and reclaimed materials. The architects, Martin Kaltwasser and Folke Koebberling, claim their theater is composed of over 800 wooden pallets and 8,000 square feet of plywood, all donated from residents and local businesses. The pallets and reclaimed plywood skin a structural steel frame that supposedly complies with all local building and fire codes (not that London has the best track record historically for containing fires). After a series of ecological themed plays that end in early October, the building will be disassembled and the pallets and plywood will be once again recycled.

Although the use of scrap material to define a building’s facade remains undoubtedly interesting, it is hardly ground-breaking. Architects and artists have been using scrap material as an aesthetic for decades, most notably Frank Gehry’s house in Santa Monica, California. Gehry stripped down an existing house to the structure and re-clad it with corrugated metal, wire-glass, and his signature chain link fence in the late 1970s (remodeled 1993). Although it should be noted that Gehry’s house is considered a classic example of deconstructivism, the deconstruction of a typical suburban house and social values, it still serves as a valid precedent; it challenged peoples’ attitudes towards common, everyday materials and incorporated them into the building’s aesthetic.

Frank Gehry Residence

Newer versions of junkitecture have sprung up all over the world: a pavilion made from reclaimed kitchen sinks (Recycloop – Amsterdam, The Netherlands), a Buddhist temple made from over 1,000,000 alcohol bottles (Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Temple – Sisaket, Thailand), and a Brooklyn art gallery made from refrigerator doors (Brooklynite Gallery – Brooklyn, New York).


Brooklynite Gallery

Contemporary artists too have adopted various elements of junkitecture into their exhibits, most notably Richard Greaves’ Anarchitecture or ‘counter-architecture’. Greaves’ work focused on dismantling existing structures piece by piece and reassembling them in rural areas, completely out of context in which they were originally constructed. His ultimate objective was to reverse the conceptual process of construction, challenging the viewer to see each piece in a new light. He often finished the building interiors in objects that he found in the trash, everything from kitchen appliances to umbrellas.

Richard Greaves - "Anarchitecture"

At a time where “green” and “LEED” dominate the architectural headlines, junkitecture offers a fresh take on the sustainability initiative. Junkitecture changes the way we look at common household items and challenges traditional methods of building construction. One can romanticize that the trash remains showcased on the exterior of the building, defining its character and aiming not to conceal its true identity. In this context, the discarded becomes useful. Unsightly becomes beautiful.

Article Info
Posted by: Ben Coss
Thinking About: Architecture / Building / Creativity / Design / Sustainability
Location: New York City
Website: http://www.bencoss.com
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