The ETH Future Pavilion was designed to demonstrate how trash can be transformed into a viable building material. The temporary structure was constructed within a narrow park that stretches between two buildings in New York’s East Village. The pavilion’s arched canopy comprised waterproof panels made of discarded beverage containers. The canopy was anchored to a base composed of stacked, wooden pallets. “The shape follows the flow of forces, resulting in a compression-only vaulted structure,” said the designers. “Thanks to its double curvature and triangular-beam section, which give the structure a higher depth for the same thickness and weight, the shell is very stable and safe for all loading combinations.”
The panels were supplied by ReWall, a US company that fabricates boards out of shredded beverage cartons. Made of paper, polyethylene and aluminium, the cartons typically end up in landfills. In the past year, more than 180 billion such containers were consumed in the US, according to the designers. While the ReWall boards are intended for interior cladding, the ETH Zurich team used them as a structural material. “The structure visualises the potential of design to utilise such a standardised and weak material in construction,” said the designers. To further minimise the structure’s environmental impact, the design team used packaging straps to connect all of the components rather than glue, metal fixings or non-recyclable materials.
The project was led by Dirk E Hebel, an ETH Zurich architecture and construction professor, and the Block Research Group, a program within the university that explores and develops structural innovations. The designers hope the pavilion underscores how trash can be seen as a legitimate building material. “Waste could be understood as an integral part of what we define as a resource,” explained the designers, adding that it could be used to “construct or configure our new cities”. The pavilion served as the satellite hub for the New Museum’s Ideas City festival, which took place from 28 May to 30 May.
Within the pavilion, ETH Zurich presented Building from Waste, an exhibition showcasing 25 different construction materials derived from trash. Several events were also hosted within the space, including a panel discussion about the use of garbage in construction.
Concept, Design and Construction: Dirk E Hebel, Assistant Professor; Professor Philippe Block; Block Research Group
Team: Felix Heisel, Dr. Tomás Méndez Echenagucia, Samuel P Smith, Nicholas Ashby, Ruben Bernegger, Jean-Marc Stadelmann, Edyta Augustynowicz, Diederik Veenendaal Michael Stirnemann, Marta H Wisniewska
Collaborators: Lukas Fitze / Featurezoo; ETH Department of Architecture
Photography: Esto / Albert Vecerka