Re-Imagining Space Through Waste Re-imagined

One thing that isn’t lacking in our neighbourhood is imagination. On the other hand, when it comes to our planet, one thing that we have too much of is waste. When you connect a problem with possibilities, you create a solution that changes the future.

That’s exactly what happened when we asked 16 second-year students from the School of Explorative Architecture (SEA), who took the course module Act I – Initiative, to re-imagine our spaces. The module, presented by the Cape Town based architecture studio, THE MAAK, had them re-imagining waste as building material. We invited this next generation of space-makers to use recycled items from the V&A Waterfront’s waste management plant to rethink the future of design and the built environment.

This exciting initiative, which was located across the V&A Waterfront to delight our visitors, is a perfect example of our commitment to an eco-friendly future as Africa’s greenest precinct.

Not only do installations like this help keep waste out of landfills (and out of our oceans), but they inspire others to seek out sustainable solutions for creating spaces that we can all share in. Together, we can re-imagine the world by re-imagining waste, because it’s in our nature to work in tandem for a better tomorrow.

Installation 1: Plastic Bags
This organic, dome-like structure (with an opening at the top) was composed of compressed plastic waste such as wrappers, single use plastic bags and the likes, all wrapped in cling wrap. The goal of the design was to enable inhabitation and encourage interaction, achieved by stacking these plastic components like bricks from biggest to smallest. This thought-provoking structure, titled Plastic Pupa, challenged visitors around the vast quantities of single-use plastics generated daily!

Installation 2: Clothes Hangers
This structure was made up of roughly 1300 recycled plastic clothing hangers. With the use of cable ties, this team managed to create square panels (each using 4 hangers). Three of these panels created a triangular prism, and 5 prisms created a cube. The engaging installation was inspired by the randomness of chaos and order of the cosmos. This installation was so well-loved that a hive of bees sought to call it home and moved in the very next day!

Installation 3: Cardboard Boxes
This organic hanging structure created a performance space for the public to interact with, which was open to allow visitors to flow through and interact with the structure freely. This eye-catching structure was made entirely from recycled cardboard boxes, a material explored by this team for its many possibilities as a building material. Sitting in the space, one may have felt like you are embodied within a tree!

Installation 4: Glass Bottles
In this installation, glass bottles acted as columns or pillars, which defined the structure and was reminiscent of ancient ruins, specifically a colosseum. Bottles are originally made from sand, demonstrating the revolution of this material which has countless possibilities. The design incorporated the use of natural sunlight and solar-powered lights to create an ethereal backdrop for visitors to enjoy.

It is within our collective interest as a humanity to explore, challenge and re-invent the way that we consume, generate, and re-apply waste. These students, through a bit of imagination, proved that waste has value.

Photography by Benji Liebman