Book Review: Superuse

Who says recycling isn’t sexy? Remember Superuse, the online community interested in inventive recycling, initiated by Recyclicity in the Netherlands. These guys, together with Ed van Hint, Césare Peeren and Jan Jongert have released their first book: Superuse, Constructing New Architecture by Shortcutting Material Flow. It’s a great book, practical as well as inspiring and surprising. Superuse have an eye for people who superuse. People who know their existing waste materials and have the skill to construct new buildings from them. This is hopefully just the beginning of what can be done in architecture, to eliminate the vast amount of waste deriving from it.

The book talks about the bigger challenges and opportunities that lie in recycling, and then divides up into chapters dealing with the various techniques and elements. One of the first chapters for example, talks about ‘Stacked Walls’, ‘one age-old principle the Greeks were very good at’, featuring the tornado safe house made from worn out carpet tiles. 'From the Ground Up’ is a chapter about keeping transport energy down by using local and lightweight materials. This also applies to building substrate put on roofs. One of the examples explains that in the case of installing a green roof, the most ‘fruitful prospective soil element that can possibly be found close to houses is inhabitants’ excretions’. So the idea here is to superuse diapers: fertilising (due to the urine they contain), lightweight, and often otherwise non-recyclable. Plenty of architectural uses for old car windows, broken washing machines and car tyres can be found under ‘Machines and Commodities’ and ‘Taking Measures’ superuses the hardly ever considered ‘super useful’ old windows, window frames and doors into building extensions and entire shelters.Here is what the editors say:

You could recycle, discard or even burn them of course: cable reels, window frames, washing machines, diapers, crates, carpet tiles, double glazing panels or old buses. The other option is to put them to good use: Superuse. It happens everywhere, albeit on a modest scale. Architects apply these materials in their designs. It requires special attention and new skills, but the resulting images can have quite unexpected qualities.
Superuse, about the construction of new buildings with surplus materials is a practical and inspiring book. It was initiated by the Rotterdam Recyclicity foundation, that specifically addresses this theme. Superuse is richly illustrated with a large number of clear cut examples in the Netherlands and elsewhere. It provides ideas for tools and methods for architects and ’superuse scouts’, such as the harvest map to discover everything useful around a building site. Moreover the theme is considered from the ecological and methodological point of view. Superuse renders the superfluous superfluous.

A truly stimulating book full of fun ideas, great photo essays and inspiring texts by the above mentioned writer and architects. The book also contains an extensive list of sources related to recycling all around the world. It is available via 010 Publishers for 19.50€ and in selected bookshops. ::Superuse

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