Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

More thought and less expense

Posted on 06 January 2015.

Umbrella ribs used for light fittings, walls made from carpet? The 75 buildings exhibited in the Pavillon de l’Arsenal compete with imaginative ways of saving the planet... through reuse!

From Europe to Asia, seventy-five remarkably ingenious buildings prove that swapping cinderblocks for waste is possible... and attractive too!

In the backwoods of Alabama the Lucy Carpet house, designed by the Rural Studio, has carpet walls. But the Tinshed house in the upmarket suburb of Sydney, designed by the architect Rafaello Rosselli, has corrugated iron cladding, and the Villa Welpeloo, designed in the Netherlands by Superuse Studios, is in itself a recycling treatise – seashell foundations, cable reel cladding, expanded polystyrene insulation and light fixtures... made with umbrella ribs! These eclectic buildings will be showing off their improbable structures at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris until January 2015. In all, there are 75 remarkably ingenuous end results from the recycling maestros: from Europe to Asia, their atypical buildings prove that swopping cinder blocks for waste is not only possible... but attractive too! "The buildings are all very different,” explain Nicola Delon and Julien Choppin, the exhibition curators, “because they relate to their contexts! We are witnessing the reinvention of a local style of architecture that is rooted in one particular place because of the materials found there and given a second lease of life.

A concrete Olympic pool every 15 seconds!

It is the end of architects being given carte blanche – they now find themselves juggling with whatever materials there are on the site to build a house. A constraint - but also a huge bonus. The cleverly entitled exhibition Matière Grise (grey matter) is an ode to creativity. From the Slow Residence, a prefabricated house designed by the student group “Design Build BLUFF” for a Navajo reservation in Utah, to the dnA House, a cruciform brick edifice designed by BLAF Architecten in Belgium, the results are exciting and likely to trigger numerous ambitions to become an architect... of the frugal type. Especially since the figures produced by the experts are likely to give more than one project owner the desire to rummage through the garbage - at the rate of the equivalent of one concrete Olympic swimming pool consumed every 15 seconds, the planet will run out of building materials inside 35 years. "Fortunately, although the world has finite resources,” conclude the Matière Grise curators, “intellectual resources are endless, as these buildings prove!” For those who still doubt the potential of feats of imagination and collective intelligence, they should perhaps take a trip to Brussels where the new headquarters of the Council of the European Union, designed by the Philippe Samyn & Partners agency, has a façade created using... old windows! With the collaboration of a Belgian antique dealer, a huge collection network was mobilized in all the Member States, and then patiently and precisely the measurements of every single wooden frame were taken. The concept was daring, but we cannot now imagine a more beautiful view of the future...

Find out more:

- The Pavillon de l’Arsenal Facebook page
- The Pavillon de l’Arsenal Twitter feed