Authors : Chen Yannan and Yan Dihua

University : Columbia University, GSAPP

Status : MsAAD, 2015

Advisor : Hilary Sample

Title : Trash Institute

Favelas can be described as an [ opened process ] rather than final designs. The size of the homes are increased over years depending on the financial possibilities to their owners; they provide a number of connected rooms meant to house new members and strengthen families’ social ties. Favelas also allow inhabitants to run small businesses and create work spaces. In this flexible and non-linear process of expansion, material and social exchange is extremely frequent. People need bricks to build houses, textiles to make clothes, and jobs to make money. However, the amount of waste produced around the micro society created within the Favelas cannot be totally absorbed by itself, which creates serious problems for environment and health.

“Trash Institute” is a concept rooted in the context of Favelas in Rio Das Pedras. It hybrids waste recycle plants with the local making culture; re-imagining mechanical factory as an infrastructure for trading, learning and manufacturing. It promotes a [ duality ] for extraction and production, coupling material recovery and on-site light manufacturing, providing people with jobs, education, and place for public gathering.

In this project, social impact and sustainability are not the aim but a trigger to test the boundaries of architectural design. By researching into waste sorting machines and home-scale workshops, the design tries to find a new typology of public space, which is deeply related to form and geometry. A reciprocal relationship is established among program, circulation, form and shape, driving the project into a highly integrated  architectural idea.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Chen Yannan + Yan Dihua_ Formal logic. In this project, the formal logic of the inner program is projected on the shape of the building’s envelope, which in turn enhances the performance of the form. This reciprocal relationship is what we want to emphasize most.The shape therefore is valued not only by aesthetics and functionality but also by its elegance in responding the multiple systems composing the building.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
CY+YD_ Sculpture and painting. Unlike architecture, they have a more primitive desire for form,which is also the ultimate question each architect has to answer. No one should simplify architecture into arguments or narratives.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
CY+YD_ Information Processing (by brain). An impressive project means an informative project. How to enable multiple systems and channels of information elegantly fit into one (or multiple) formal logic(s), is the most important thing we learned in Columbia.

S//A : Describe your dream project
CY+YD_ An extremely complex Rubik’s Cube no one can solve.