Architectural Recycling

By Dan Gregory

Early recycling: moving Egyptian obelisks, in a fascinating book

Let’s talk recycling. It’s not a new idea: remember the Romans! In 10 B. C. Emperor Augustus removed the obelisk from the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis in Egypt and placed it in the Circus Maximus; then in 1589 Pope Sixtus V had it erected in the Piazza del Popolo topped with a cross. More recent power players have adapted this collect-and-conquer approach to a residential scale and architecturally re-purposed everything from antique ceilings to airplanes and automobiles. Take this new

residence by architect David Hertz, FAIA, which was a 2012 Record House (photos courtesy David Hertz). It shows how to recycle a Boeing 747. Hertz turned the wings into roofs on two levels.

In this house wings are really wings!  And by the way, a jet engine cowling makes a great reflecting pool. Part of the exterior fuselage forms the kitchen backsplash, conveying the delightful impression that a plane has just landed beside the sink — or maybe this is simply another form of "Mileage Plus." One little caveat about  re-purposing a 747 — if it’s visible from the air you need to notify the FAA so they don’t think it’s a crash site. The house is fully explored in David's new book: The Restorative Home: Ecological Houses by Architect David Hertz.

Leger Wanaselja Architects is known for their eco-friendly approach to design, most recently for their infill house with roofs “sawed out of grey cars left for parts in local junk yards,” and glass awnings “fabricated from junked Dodge Caravan side windows.” They used salvaged automobile roofs for upper 

walls and poplar bark (waste product from the furniture industry of North Carolina) for the lower walls.
Inside, all the finish wood for cabinetry and trim is salvage, lending the main living

and dining areas a warmly inviting glow (photos courtesy Leger Wanaselja). Terramai offers a wide range of reclaimed woods, for example, supplying the reclaimed teak for this handsome contemporary Los Angeles

pool deck by Grossman Construction Company (photo courtesy Terramai).

Recycling isn’t just about one-off custom design — it’s built into many
contemporary materials, including solid surface counters like Vetrazzo, which is recycled glass in a base of concrete and comes in a wide variety

of colors, like this dramatic island counter in red hues (photo courtesy Vetrazzo).


Which reminds me: ready-made plans are all about recycling, too! Modern 3 bedroom 3 bath Plan 909-10 

by MA Architecture is a good example. It's designed for a sloping lot, with a two story living-dining room 

opening to a deck. Adapt it to your site, add whatever upgrades are required, in addition to any recycled materials of your choice, and you’re done…and no need to contact the FAA!

To browse a collection of eco-friendly plans click here.

This post updates one that appeared on my previous blog Eye On Design. And if you are interested, as I am, in ancient recycling, ok, call me obsessed -- read Cleopatra's Needles: The Lost Obelisks of Egypt, shown at the top of this post, by Bob Brier, a riveting account of how those enormous and enormously heavy stone landmarks were removed from Egypt and transported to Rome, Paris, London, and even New York City (that one is in Central Park next to the Metropolitan Museum), first in the time of Emperor Augustus, then for popes during the Renaissance, and then in the mid-19th century.

May 17, 2016