Sustainability principles guided the project from it’s inception with materials being hired, reused and recycled wherever possible.
We had 3 tensions to consider when designing the structures:
1) The creative concept of something that could work at day & night & that would be visually impressive
2) To be structurally safe in case someone chose to climb on it since it was in a public space & would be up 24 hours a day for the weekend
3) To be as sustainable & recyclable as possible
This was challenging & to accommodate all 3 of these at all times meant we shelved a lot of concepts, eventually settling on our final concept.
We sourced scaffold boards that were coming to end of life for that purpose, and these were used for the main Ogham Wheel structure.
Since Writer’s Square is slanted to allow for water run-off, we also used the scaffold boards as the base of the long structure, the Tree Alphabet, for the skeleton of the structure to be built upon.
We also sourced a large number of palettes that had already had some use .. Which we thought were also in keeping with the country we live in .. As well as 2x4 legnths & frames from a selection of mobile homes that were being dismantled, lengths from the set of a Netflix series that had just completed and sheets of ply from the closing of T13 skate park.
We used rolls of recycled HDPE plastic membrane, that is used for basement drainage and waterproofing, for the exterior cladding that allowed the light through and was visually intriguing whether it was viewed in daylight or night. It also made the whole structure very tactile and it was great watching people, especially kids, run their hands along it.
We chose polycarbonate sheets for the roofing on the tree alphabet, as we needed to allow light out of the top, as well as to make sure that the structure was strong enough in case of someone climbing on it.
And finally we approached the National Woodland Trust who kindly allowed us to rent a bunch of pre-cut logs to fill the surround of the Ogham Wheel.
With all of this our approach was that we must intercept any materials on their journey from one place to another. If we were sourcing it new we had to be able to recycle or have it reused, and if it had been recycled then it had to be able to go on for another use.
Some of the challenges we faced were:
We were not sustainable in the amount of extra travelling we had to do to find materials and verify if they were fit for purpose, and several times the quality wasn’t good enough to be structurally safe so we weren’t able to take those pieces once we'd got there. Which also lengthened the amount of time it took us to gather the materials before we could begin the fabrication which put us under considerable pressure as we were under severe time pressure from the awarding of the project to delivery of the project.
We were not able to get a guide on how much power we used from the grid to power the lights & the speakers, but we requested the most energy efficient equipment possible from the rental company.
We drastically miscalculated how much effort it would take to break everything down again so that it could continue to be used after the event. Under other circumstances we may have just broken it all, but we had to unscrew everything correctly, so that as much as possible was reusable.
We also didn’t account for the amount of time we’d be storing the materials to allow us to move it on, whether donating it, returning it or selling it .. And of course the challenge of where to store it all.
The damp proof coursing has gone on to be used in basements, the polycarbonate has gone on to produce a surprising amount of lean-tos and home greenhouses, a lot of the palettes went back to being palettes, and the wood has been used in gardens, furniture & home improvements, the screws are taking up shelving space in several studios to be used in new projects, and pretty much the only non-recyclable material was the vinyl that we printed the info board text on, which was then stuck to the end panels & the existing Writer’s Square signage, which you can see all balled up in this photo.