Architecture of a Circular Economy

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Ar. Tan Szue Hann

In this Studio, Architecture of the Circular Economy, we look at ways of dealing with material consumption, manufacturing, recycling / upcycling and extending their life cycles, and how architecture can be designed as a process within the Circular Economy. Can trash be turned into treasure, and then into architecture?

As responsible consumers in the world begin to look at how our patterns of consumption, use and manufacturing can change, how does that affect our built environment? Does it change the way we design, build and manage our cities, our architecture, our interior spaces, and the furniture we interact with?

A Circular Economy
A circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling. This is in contrast to a linear economy which is a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production.

A Circular Economy looks to alleviate some of the issues that the planet is facing, by extending the life cycles of materials and reducing wasteful consumption patterns. It promotes sustainability through responsible design, manufacturing and consumption, and onward recycling and upcycling.

The Brief

Part One – Going Circular
The construction sector is one of the largest producers of waste, and consumers of energy. In small groups of 2 to 3, students are required to present their case on the Circular Economy with respect to building and construction, understanding the inputs, processes and outputs, and citing examples of successful Circular Economy practices globally.

Part Two – Material & Structure
At an individual level, each student is required then to study a plastic material of their choice, that is recyclable, and understand its properties. The student is then required to combine the recycled plastic with another nonplastic material, to improve its structural properties as well as its manufacturability. These studies will be theoretical in nature. Each student will then conduct a design exercise in designing a piece of furniture – or an installation – out of this new composite material, highlighting its strengths in application, as well as its impact on the circular economy.

Part Three – Architecture
At an individual level, each student is required to design Architecture based on the prevailing Year requirement, with a chosen site.

The architecture should employ the earlier composite material designed by the student, and incorporate the earlier-designed furniture in the same philosophy. While being an epitome of an Architecture of the Circular Economy, the eventual designed building should still fulfil its purpose of site response, programme, aesthetics, structure, poetism, and everything else that makes a good work of architecture.