Gallery: HEINEKEN WOBO: A Beer Bottle That Doubles as a Brick

 
Today, the shed at the Heineken estate and a wall made of WOBO at the Heineken Museum in Amsterdam are the only structures where the 'beer brick' was used. As to the remaining WOBO’s it’s not clear how many exist, or where, but the idea, even some four decades later, remains a lasting example in end-use innovation.

Mr. Heineken’s idea came after a visit to the Caribbean where he saw two problems: beaches littered with bottles and a lack of affordable building materials. The WOBO became his vision to solve both the recycling and housing challenges that he had witnessed on the islands.

The final WOBO design came in two sizes – 350 and 500 mm versions that were meant to lay horizontally, interlock and layout in the same manner as ‘brick and mortar’ construction. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands. One of the construction challenges “was to find a way in which corners and openings could be made without cutting bottles,” said Mr. Habraken.

Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the Heineken brewery didn’t support the WOBO and the idea stalled. Interest was reignited in 1975 when Martin Pawley published Garbage Housing which included the chapter ‘WOBO: a new kind of message in a bottle.’ Heineken once again approached Habraken who teamed up with designer Rinus van den Berg and designed a building with oil drums for columns, Volkswagen bus tops for roof and the WOBO bottles for walls, but the structure was never built.

Today, the shed at the Heineken estate and a wall made of WOBO at the Heineken Museum in Amsterdam are the only structures where the ‘beer brick’ was used. As to the remaining WOBO’s it’s not clear how many exist, or where, but the idea, even some four decades later, remains a lasting example in end-use innovation.

Heineken International Heineken Museum John Habraken

Via Archinect

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65 Comments

  1. jsutton48 July 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    It seems that these have been discontinued. I live in an Earthship community in Taos, NM and we are committed to using as many recycled materials as possible to build.
    Now we are cutting bottles in half and taping them together to make bottle ‘bricks’. These would be great and would ensure that the crew, interns and academy students are only drinking Heineken.

  2. Shirley Williams July 2, 2014 at 3:17 am

    And we are no longer using this brilliant idea ……… WHY ????!!!!!

  3. Grafton Kevan March 25, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Not as great as it seems, because moisture trapped in the bottles will cause them to crack in changing weather.

  4. Kalebee May 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Where are the dies? Who or what has them?

  5. Elizabeth Marshall March 19, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Great idea!!

  6. Darrell Adkins December 30, 2012 at 10:54 am

    My Uncle David although he is not a beer conisour, he is a glass colector and has built a small castel out of bottles. I\\\’m sure had he known this it would be a great addition to his project.

  7. Ashley de Vos July 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

    It is a shame that greed driven big business has killed all the brilliant ideas and innovations of the past. The flat sided beer bottle is a great innovation due to its multiple possible uses. Shouln’t all bottles have flat sides. Easier to hold and easy to recycle.

  8. the voice vietnam May 21, 2012 at 4:23 am

    okay and as much as that ‘Achoholic’s beach house’ picture is cute and inspiriing… I don’t think its really the point

  9. palex May 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Nice idea but…

    Seriously? You are actually at that point living in a ‘green house’. Thermal comfort can either go take a running leap off a cliff or you can whack in the most ginourmous ac unit ever.

    Having said that, filling it with water might make it far more viable as a material…

  10. JunkkMale May 11, 2012 at 7:37 am

    It was pretty much the inspiration to the designed-in advocacy that http://www.junkk.com promotes

  11. RecoJeans May 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    This is pure genius! Upcycling will hopefully receive better reception now than it did in the 60′s and 70′s, out of necessity if nothing else. Although the flower children of the 60′s had the heart, it wasn’t as crucial then as it is now. I work for a small jean company thats trying to get it to catch on in the fashion industry, lets hope its better received now than then! http://www.RecoJeans.com

  12. Valeri Giannell August 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Excellent info as always! Thanks!

  13. crisevel December 13, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Es una excelente super gran idea, la que se debería practicar en muchos lugares

  14. joane doe January 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    See Ryolite NV. Miners did this in the 19th century.

  15. Adrian December 5, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Does anyone know a company that can make a bottle design for hire? I think this is a great idea but I would try to improve upon it.

  16. Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    [...] “What are some others ways I can help the planet by binge drinking?” The solution: the Heineken Brick. It turns out Alfred Heineken had the idea make a”brick that holds beer” in 1963. He [...]

  17. the friday farrago &laq... November 16, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    [...] ~|Upcylcing I can deal with… build me a Heineken house. [...]

  18. industrial designs for ... November 12, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    [...] Inhabitat Posted in [...]

  19. ananieto November 6, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Toma inventos

  20. La botella que es ladri... November 6, 2007 at 8:26 am

    [...] La botella que es ladrillo o el ladrillo que es botella. Ademas te puedes beber el contenidowww.inhabitat.com/2007/10/11/heineken-wobo-the-brick-that-ho… por mimateos hace pocos segundos [...]

  21. Property Roadmap »... November 2, 2007 at 8:02 am

    [...] Source [Inhabitat] [...]

  22. koje7 » Blog Arch... November 1, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    [...] http://www.inhabitat.com Stapelbares Flaschendesign. Posted by admin in Produkt [...]

  23. HEINEKEN WOBO | October 29, 2007 at 11:17 am

    [...] HEINEKEN WOBO: The brick that holds beer [...]

  24. Eric October 26, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    I found a snipit of an article for a WOBO bottle building on the back cover of an old Fine Homebuilding issue (December 1986/January 1987)…. just a few days after someone sent me this Inhabitat article.

    You can check it out here: http://eyecandy-webcandy.blogspot.com/

    Keep up the good work,
    Eric

  25. the brick that holds be... October 25, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    [...] Inhabitat » HEINEKEN WOBO: The brick that holds beer. a cradle to cradle idea from the 70s. [...]

  26. Round Peg October 25, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Why do the bottles need to be specially shaped to be used as building material?: a wall made of ordinary round bottles would need a bit more mortar but be just as doable, and could be made of a mixutre of different bottles, or the builder could choose bottles of different sizes and colours according to the effect he wants, such as how much light comes into the room or the risk of breakage.
    As it is, we are told that bottles, like everything else, can be used just once before being thrown away and becoming a liablity. The best way to use used bottles is to use them as bottles.

  27. victor h. October 24, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Cheers for that!!
    Salud por eso!!

  28. Johnny K – Heinek... October 21, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    [...] Inhabitat | Tags: heineken [...]

  29. Heineken « koope ... October 20, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    [...] http://www.inhabitat.com Stapelbares Flaschendesign. [...]

  30. Build with beer «... October 19, 2007 at 9:35 am

    [...] John Habraken and set out to find a way to make Heineken bottles reusable as building material. The result is an ingenious bottle design: Square, with raised bumps on each side for traction, a short neck and a matching dimple in the [...]

  31. pistabaci October 18, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    while i think this is one of the coolest things i’ve seen in a while, and i think it was a great idea in the past, i’m not sure that it meets our environmental goals of today. i think we need to figure out a system where the bottles just make their way back into the factory and get refilled (with beer, in this case). we should only have to recycle bottles that are too damaged to be reused. if not broken, a bottle will last quite some time and refilling it would utilize the inherent energy of the bottle all over again. it’s all about closed loops people! ;)

  32. B October 17, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Great idea! I wonder if a brewer with a product that doesn’t taste like skunk urine could take over the project? My husband could build schools.

  33. Sitez » links for... October 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    [...] HEINEKEN WOBO: The brick that holds beer (tags: beer environment) [...]

  34. wobo. « Things I ... October 17, 2007 at 11:36 am

    [...] Link. [...]

  35. Around the Web [10.16.0... October 16, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    [...] Beer Bricks by Heineken (via Inhabitat) [...]

  36. Comedy Blog October 16, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Neat idea. After drinking about 3 of those, i’m sure i’d be inclined to make something. Then I would probably suffer death by cirrhosis trying to finish my 42 floor boutique hotel.

  37. Paul Grove October 15, 2007 at 10:34 am

    I’m from South Africa – home of SAB- Miller. We have a chronic housing shortage – this idea would be perfect. Building SQ one beer at a time!

  38. Solo gli alcoolisti han... October 15, 2007 at 2:40 am

    [...] produttrice di birra discutibile ma grande macinatrice di eventi e azioni collaterali di marketing, presenta la nuova bottiglia mattone, più bevi e più grande sarà la tua casa per un mondo in cui Barney vive in un palazzo di 16 [...]

  39. Two Heroes for Blog Act... October 15, 2007 at 2:17 am

    [...] write about the environment every day either here, at Greener Assets or Inhabitat. I do it for two reasons: because I love to write and because the health of the environment is [...]

  40. Alonline » The He... October 14, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    [...] Here’s a clever, and very green idea from Heineken which, unfortunately, arrived in1963, just before the first real green campaigns began. It’s a remarkably simple idea, where each bottle is vaguely brick shaped, and designed in such a way as to link together pretty seamlessly. The purpose was to provide a use for the bottle beyond carrying Heineken’s beer, and to enable people to build with the bottles afterward. I’d rather like a glass wall built out of beer bottles, although it might have been better if they produced the bottles in clear glass as well as green. [...]

  41. MATTHEW ROSE October 14, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I have always been interested in glass in architecture, whether windows or walls, interior divisions or floors. That a consumer products company would, as a by product, create a building material is genius. You have to ask yourself why an idea like this, high end recycling, would not work. But then you just look at the automotive industry and ask yourself why we don’t have $5000 cars in the realm of Rolls Royces, that run on gasoline that gets you 200 mpg. Why have computers dropped down to $500 for a Dell 2 gb laptop and we have expensive, inefficient product polluting the planet?

    I’m trying to create paper products with our company here in Paris, Lalande Digital Art Press, that extend the lifetime of a piece of paper, give it sensuality, art and utility. Our “Carte de Rencontre” is a step in that general direction that the H bottle seemed to promise.

    Fascinating piece, thank you for writing about it. Love your site. It’s what we need more of…

    Best, Matthew Rose / http://lalandedigitalpress.blogspot.com/

  42. materialBITCH October 14, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Awesome! I think those bottles are great. I love the “grenade” big huge keg cans too.
    Rep the brand,

  43. psychic readings October 14, 2007 at 11:20 am

    its different!

  44. Doug Lucchetti October 14, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Glass, for all its usefullness and ubiquity, is widely overlooked for its potential to enhance our lives in many ways and the building block bottle is just one of them…heineken should have considered using additional colors and expanded the kinds of building components that its packaging suggests. And I should add, that the very first time this idea came across my awareness was back in the late 60s when a dairy suggested the same design application for their milk bottles…see, it’s not just about some commenters phobia about alcohol.

  45. Harriet Anders October 14, 2007 at 5:41 am

    Considering the way Heineken treat their staff in Cambodia (see: http://www.beergirls.org/), maybe they are not as altruistic as their PR machine would like you to think.

  46. Fred Glisan October 14, 2007 at 2:02 am

    Cool. It’s like LEGOS for alcoholics.

  47. Joel October 14, 2007 at 1:33 am

    Way ahead of its time.

  48. Leon October 14, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Isn’t there a beer brand called “BRICK”. Have caps that screw back on for better insulation,

  49. DanielLee50 October 13, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Yes, great.

  50. jkfan87 October 13, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Tim..do you realize how much weight is exerted onto objects in a swimming pool?

  51. Brett Bloom October 12, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    I forgot… here is the page for our book that documents both houses and some other projects. The book has sold out, but we put the pdf up for free download: http://www.learningsite.info/learningbook001.htm

  52. Brett Bloom October 12, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Yannick – the project with the bottles was in Monterrey (Mexico) and was done by a group I work with from time to time called Learning Site: http://www.learningsite.info. The [Collected Material Dwelling #002] looked at several factors in the occupied outer areas of Monterrey: there was tons of trash strewn all over the area, when the house was built there was no infrastructure for recycling plastic bottles, people in the area were making their houses and an economy out picking up trash… we incorporated all of these factors into making the six-sided house. An overview of the project is hear: http://www.learningsite.info/PETdwelling.htm. We built a model for the house, which has been traveling around in an exhibition called “Beyond Green”. Here is our model – made from plastic bottles woven together with wire and cardboard – all materials from the waste streams of the museum we built the thing in. Here is the link: http://www.learningsite.info/collecteddwellingsmart.htm.

    I first saw the WOBO as a kid in the 70s and was mesmerized by it. I think this kind of innovative design will melt the most obstinate people into understanding and getting excited about things like secondary use.

  53. Mikeee October 12, 2007 at 11:45 am

    I know it wouldn’t be as appealing as stacked empty WOBOs like in the picture above, but I’d guess that filling up the bottles with cement/concrete and THEN using them to build the house would provide the necessary stability?

  54. Wendy October 12, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I love the bottles too. I think I saw them first in a GREAT book called Paper or Plastic. Similar but not the same use of recycled bottles (wine) in building can be seen at: http://www.jakeshotel.com/ They use beautiful multi-colored bottles in walls and headboards etc. Gorgeous!

  55. Ali October 12, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Any way we can petition Heineken to bring these back???

  56. Greg October 12, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Breathtaking, curious, and ingenious.

    I love this.

    The bottles are interesting in and of themselves, as well.

  57. Friday Favorites: Marsh... October 12, 2007 at 2:54 am

    [...] HEINEKEN WOBO: the brick that holds beer Envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken, the “brick that holds beer” was ahead of its ecodesign time, letting beer lovers and builders alike drink and design all in one sitting…read more at Inhabitat [...]

  58. yanick October 11, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    On a similar note, As I was doing research for development work, I read an article about a housing project in Mexico using 2L pop bottle for the walls. The bottle were laid vertically, fixed with mortar and covered with a layer of clay for finish. Those bottle can withstand a lot of pressure and, I suppose, can support roof structure. Another example of secondary use.

  59. Tim October 11, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    okay and as much as that ‘Achoholic’s beach house’ picture is cute and inspiriing… I don’t think its really the point… imagine building your shower screen out of it, Or a feature wall! Or building sections into your swimming pool out of them with lights inside/behind. As a source of glass and architectural inspiration these things are unlimited.

  60. Tim October 11, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    surely every country has building regulations!? why should practical idealism have to be limited by end use doubts? Isn’t that the responsibility of the end-user? I’m sure I could build a deadly structure out of BHP steel and Scandenavian Hardwood… but there ain’t nothin wrong with the raw.

    Any way we can get some marketing hype going to revisit some of these ideas??? It doesn’t have to be anything other than a limited run… the publicity would be massive. Why don’t PR and marketing people read these sites…. the world is drooling over eco-friendly products and the world of marketing still wants to sell landfill. Get with the times folks, or next years kids will have your jobs.

  61. Brett Bloom October 11, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    According to Pawley’s “Garbage Housing,” 100,000 bottles were made. The bottles were discontinued because there was fear that they didn’t produce a safe and reliable enough structure. Yes, it really is too bad that this idea wasn’t developed further. Long before there was Cradle to Cradle, and its fantasies of green capitalism, there was Pawley’s notion of Secondary Use (a bit more realistic then and now) – every product would be made so that it could have a secondary use – the WOBO is one of the greatest examples of this and is truly an enduring classic of this way of thinking.

  62. Beer Bottle Brick &laqu... October 11, 2007 at 10:32 am

    [...] Beer Bottle Brick Published October 11th, 2007 Environment / Sustainability How come this idea never took off, check out this 1963 Heineken WOBO bottle.  Add mortor and you can stack this like a brick wall.  It’s a real shame that Heineken didn’t develope this further.  From inhabitat.com [...]

  63. Hmmmmm October 11, 2007 at 8:26 am

    What a beautiful and forward thinking product. I feel like drinking a Heiniken right now to celebrate.
    I would love to come across an old stash of thoses bottles and build something.

  64. RaymaN October 11, 2007 at 4:30 am

    Hey, cool idea! ;)

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