Studio Class at Umeå University
Studio Class at Umeå University

Reinventing Waste: An organ of active awareness in Beirut

This project was developed by Mohamad Nahleh as a student from American University of Beirut and was submited to the WAS awards 2017 under the Residential category.


Given that the prevalent exploitation of the planet has become unfortunately indwelling and widely accepted, especially in the field of architecture, the project emerges as a studied antonym against all of these transgressions.

However, this opposition does not manifest itself as a violent and blind intervention, but a conscious application that evolves simultaneously from a historical analysis and a future perception. The project focuses mainly on implementing an active interaction with the built environment, beginning with the transformation of an abandoned building into a processing space that transmutes plastic waste into building material to be used in the assembly of the light/transferrable building extension, run by Recycle Beirut, a local NGO offering job opportunities to refugees.


A biomimetic, programmable light structure that allows the project to live and interact

The design of the project focuses on giving each component more than their elementary function: the steel structure studies the tensile and compressive forces in tree branches to create a structure formed by two semi-independent light trusses connected by bridges, aiming to oppose the conventional heavy slab/foundation based constructions. The shaded corridor between the trusses is a public planted space with a favorable microclimate due to its parallelism to the prevailing winds. The structure also contains all the vertical circulation, and holds all the residential and office units assembled from plastic bricks formed in the ground floor factory. Additionally, the trusses shamelessly expose the mechanical systems containing a plastic recycling shaft linking the factory to all the spaces.


A contemporary waste awareness induced by an unprecedented way of living

The project follows a realization that the growth of a waste related awareness is more powerful if it is actively transmitted through different aspects of the building, rather than passively. Different systems were created to ensure this interaction, including: a system implemented in the gym locker rooms that allows the user, once he/she recycles a plastic bottles, the use of the same amount of water required to transform this recycled bottle into building material.

Another system substitutes all conventional training equipment with water and plastic equipment created in the factory, in the aim of familiarizing people with the potential of waste and clearing their pre-conceived ideas. This all adds to an ongoing visual interaction with different waste types making their way to the factory.


Marrying foreign technologies to local efforts in the aim of establishing social inclusion

Lebanon is simultaneously facing a waste crisis, a refugee crisis and an ongoing deficiency in low-income housing. The project, and eventually its reproduction, aim to offer creative solutions to these problems: in collaboration with local NGOs, such as Recycle Beirut, the processing spaces will provide numerous job opportunities to refugees, teaching them about breakthrough technologies in the fields of waste recycling. Additionally, the programmatic approach of the project focused on generating as many residential and office units as possible, of various spatial requirements, completely made out of recycled plastic waste and which, in association with the municipality of Badaro, shall target people in desperate need of a safe space as well as start ups making their way into the scene.



1062m2 including existing building and cantilevered units on higher levels. However, on the Ground Floor, the added structure (trusses) occupies an area of: 165m2 (7.4% of the entire site). Building Height: 42 m, building depth: 6m.



Recycled steel from construction site remnants for the structure, rePlast recycled plastic blocks for the built units, and RecycleBeirut recycled glass and construction waste tiles for the floors.