Hands-on Workshop:  The Art of Upcycling

Description of Workshop

Topics: art with waste, design with waste, architecture with waste,
engineering for the BoP, passive energy
Disciplines: architecture, civil engineering, product design,
mechanical engineering, visual arts
Type: hands-on experiments with a few lectures
Hands-on: making art, products and structures with waste materials
Field Trip: possible but not necessary
Duration: 1 week + 1 day, easy to extend
Combinations: alternative construction, emergency architecture,
social design
Extensions: ideal to extend to a summer school program

The Art of Upcycling 

Hands-on experience that triggers your creativity and changes your mindset.

This hands-on workshop is about awareness and the many ways to use discarded and recycled materials. The assignments will challenge you to think in a different way. We will show you a wide range of examples and unusual opportunities from around the world.

Participants will experiment with waste materials in four different disciplines. These are Art, Product Design, Construction and Architecture. In groups, they’ll make different
objects from waste materials they find around them. The first is an art installation and the second is a usable product.

Then they will develop concepts for building applications and architectural purposes using the same materials. In between, we will make solar cookers entirely from campus waste that students will test during lunch and tea breaks, weather permitting.

At the end of the course, we will introduce the Height Challenge. Students will build the tallest free-standing tower possible using the materials of their choice.

Aims and Outcomes

We believe that hands-on experience is of great value to stimulate the overall thinking process of the students and make them enthusiastic about practical work.

We take them away from their laptops and screens, and give them the opportunity to create with their hands. At the same time they experience working with unconventional materials and immediately see the outcome of their ideas.

This intense process of learning by doing expands the learning abilities, it brings out the creativity and broadens the practical insights of the student.

This one-week format can easily be extended and transformed into a full summer school program, where students get the opportunity to build and to complete full-scale structures.

Proposed Lectures and Timetable (example)

#1. Introduction about the work of Smart Shelter Foundation and explanation of the design assignments to the participants. (30 minutes)

#2. Wastewide Architecture; Inspiring examples from all over the world, of artists, designers and architects that use secondary materials in their work. (3 x 45 minutes)

#3. Engineering for the Bottom of the Pyramid; improving the lives of people by designing simple devices for lighting, energy, cooking (product design), tools and machinery (mechanical engineering). Includes making a solar cooker from campus waste. (1 full day)

#4. Movie ‘Taste the Waste’ (1 hour 15 minutes)

Morning Program Afternoon Program
Day 1 #1 Opening + spaghetti challenge
#2 Wastewide architecture pt.1
#2 Wastewide architecture pt.2
Explain assignment
Day 2 Work on art and products Work on art and products
Day 3 #3 Engineering for the BoP +
Solar cooker assignment
Solar cooker assignment
Day 4 #4 Movie + test cookers Work on art and products
Day 5 Work on art and products Work on art and products
Explain assignment for Monday
Day 0 Students continue at home in the weekend (optional) Students continue at home in the weekend (optional)
Day 6 Prepare art and products
Prepare height challenge
Height challenge + close down


Possible Extensions and Combinations

Since this workshop format is quite intensive, we recommend that you consider extending the program for an additional week. This is easily done by adding elements of the following formats:

  • Design workshop; Alternative Construction (click here)
  • Design workshop; Social Design (click here)
  • Design workshop; Emergency Architecture  (click here)
  • Extend to complete Summer School Program (click here)

If you would like us to make a custom-made proposal, please send us a request by filling in the contact form.