Waste Initiative

The Waste Initiative is an applied research platform that aims to explore the possibilities—both real and speculative—of the role of waste in relationship to architecture and the city. At once ubiquitous and forgotten, waste is a growing and pressing area of inquiry that extends across scales and disciplinary expertise. Within the context of Columbia GSAPP, the platform will investigate three independent yet overlapping thematics dealing with waste and disposability: infrastructure, aesthetics, and materiality. The work of the Waste Initiative operates in a range of formats including design studios, seminars, summer workshops, and continuous long-term projects concerned with material investigations and public design speculations.

Key research questions include the following:

  • While waste is typically considered to be without value, what strategies are necessary to reshuffle our value system to assert waste as a potential resource and critical area of study within architectural discourse?

  • How can we visualize the circulation of waste stream inputs and outputs throughout the city? Is there a potential to locate productive overlaps and excesses within these systems?

  • Are there opportunities for waste and its accompanying infrastructures to have a public value and legibility in the city?

  • What can we learn from comparative models of urban waste management systems around the world?

  • How do we evaluate and implement new and emerging waste and energy technologies within specific urban contexts?

  • How can we visualize the life cycle and physical composition of waste materials over time to better understand their ecological and social implications?