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 all about awareness and highlights the many possibilities of using 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 extraordinary possibilities from all over the world.

The participants will experiment with waste materials in four different disciplines. These are Art, Product Design, Construction and Architecture. In groups they will create several objects with waste materials that are found nearby. The first is an art installation and the second is a usable product.

After that they will develop concepts for building applications and architectural purposes, with those same materials. And in between we make solar cookers entirely from campus waste, which the students will test during lunch time and tea break; weather permitting.

At the end of the course we introduce the Height Challenge. The students will construct the highest possible freestanding tower with 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

As this workshop format is quite intense, we encourage you to consider an extension of the program with one more week. This can easily be 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.