Gallery: Rapid Re(f)use: New York City Rebuilt From Its Own Trash


New York City, much like any big city, disposes of a lot of trash — but what if that trash could be used in a constructive manner? NYC-based architects Terreform have proposed a new form of construction for the City that uses industrial sized robots to create buildings and islands from waste instead of sending it to landfills like Fresh Kills. They’re calling the project Rapid Re(f)use, and the first design is a reverse of the Statue of Liberty that would be built out in the harbor.

Terreform proposes to take the trash already sitting at Fresh Kills landfill and use it extend the city and reconstitute it. Automated robots would be modified from existing industrial waste compaction devices in order to process the trash and transform it into building materials. Rather than the traditional compaction devices that smash trash to make it smaller, these robots would have jaws to create simple shape geometry – trash building blocks.

Plastic would be transformed into fenestration for windows, organic materials used for temporary scaffolds, metal for more rigid structures, and so on. Terreform expects that with all the trash at the landfill and disposed of each year, they could remake seven entirely new Manhattan islands at full scale. Eventually, the purpose is to make no distinction between the city and the waste it generates.

+ Terreform


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  1. scotty_rocks_it March 6, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Oh yeah, I saw that movie too. . . it\’s called Wall-e.

    Give me a break.

    Perhaps we could collect all the disposed milk products and then recreate the twin towers out of cheese.

  2. catherinetodd February 5, 2010 at 11:03 pm


    I was wondering who this “John McBride” fellow was. Might he have been a hold-over from the Bush Administration, or someone who lost a design competition to Inhabitat recently? Wonder why someone would be so completely opposed to any potential solutions that the world obviously needs NOW.

    If everyone responded the way he did, we’d still be back in the stone age eating raw meat with our hands since we would have no tools and no fire. No thanks. Glad to see there’s plenty of people on this site with open minds, eyes, ears and hearts. And most of all IMAGINATION and SKILLS, and the determination and ENERGY to see their wonderful ideas through! These are the people and ideas that will transform the world, thereby saving it and everyone in it. Even the John McBrides (whether they like it or not). LOL, but true.

  3. ct January 31, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Dear John McBride,

    It’s such a bad idea I spent the last six months developing same idea independently. There is plenty of precedent for this: Francois Roche of R&Sie(n). A student of his at Columbia (Mark Bearak) developed these lovely animations of spiders building buildings on architect “”. Spiders building buildings not that new either, matter fact if you could re-create the way a spiders makes its web you’d be onto something.

    My take on this was a little different, basically self climbing machines with hanging scaffold would build these tube towers – this is exactly how the concrete core of the KPF project for the Shanghai Financial Tower was built, a self climbing core (nothing new either).

    So far nothing tooo crazy about this design.

    Published in the New Scientist January 2009 – “Now Lawrence Reaveley, a civil engineer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, has come up with a scheme that could reuse some of this excess trash. His new patent application claims that a blend of waste plastic and cellulose from plant material can make a good building material, once appropriately sanitised. The mixture could either be held together using a bonding substance, or treated with heat and pressure to let the plastic already in the mix hold things together, the application says.
    Panels produced in this way could be used for sound or heat insulation, or they could be reinforced – for example with metal or fibreglass – to be used structurally for walls and other building features. The plastic/cellulose mix could even be burned for fuel, the patent application claims.”

    so still in reality here buddy.

    Scaffolding – well i have professional experience in this and in theme with this design have developed details for connecting Mast Climbers to buildings in NYC (these are platforms that climb up and down a building on crane like masts). Scaffolds are damn near the most primitive type of construction in NYC, until the recent UrbanShed entry. They are wood planks on corrugated metal on pipe scaffolds. Organic is not out of the question, matter fact the only way to do it.

    I had trouble developing the robot in my scheme and therefore i’m gladd Terreform did.

    i’ll have a comic strip up on my website soon called the “robot that never was”…

    knock this all you want, but concrete is a liquid that comes out a tube, so why not clear plastic windows (see patent pending)…

    – Chris Teeter –

  4. catherinetodd January 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Watch the video called “Every Hour” on MetaCafe:

    Every hour New York City produces enough waste to fill the Statue of Liberty. Our concept remakes the city by utilizing the trash. Automated robot 3d printers are modified to process trash and complete this task within decades. Eventually, the future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.

  5. catherinetodd January 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

    DOUBLE WOW! If “Automated robot 3d printers” can really do this job, we are really entering a new era. Tell me more! CatherineTodd2 (at) gmail (dot) com.

  6. GreenCorbu January 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Just Excellent.
    It is a the POWER behind the image that makes the message convincing.
    see from their Terrefom URL;
    “New York City is disposing of 38,000 tons of waste per day. Most of this discarded material ended up in Fresh Kills landfill before it closed. The Rapid Re(f)use project supposes an extended New York reconstituted from its own landfill material. Our concept remakes the city by utilizing the trash at Fresh Kills. With our method, we can remake seven entirely new Manhattan islands at full scale. Automated robot 3d printers are modified to process trash and complete this task within decades. These robots are based on existing techniques commonly found in industrial waste compaction devices. Instead of machines that crush objects into cubes, these devices have jaws that make simple shape grammars for assembly. Different materials serve specified purposes; plastic for fenestration, organic compounds for temporary scaffolds, metals for primary structures, and etc. Eventually, the future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.”

  7. John McBride January 30, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Is that really feasible? Making scaffolds out of organic material? if that means wooden beams then maybe but if it means potato peels and newspapers then this is all nonsense. It would require a lot of non-existant technology to manufacture these giant lego blogs and what about the fact that organic mateterial will rot over time. Sorry this started out as a load of rubbish and that’s all it ever will be.

  8. John McBride January 30, 2010 at 7:21 am

    What a load of rubbish. Did anybody think about this for longer than 2 minutes? the technology required to compact, seal, strengthen etc, are too great, and what about the implications of degradation over time due to the organic content? Pure marketing hype in my humble opinion.
    John McBride

  9. catherinetodd January 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Now this is FANTASTIC, and what a symbol with the Statue of Liberty “in reverse.” Hope I get to be a part of this.

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