As the world continues to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of increased pollution due to single-use plastics, latex gloves, hand sanitizer bottles and discarded face masks hasn’t been lost on environmentalists. The very face masks (most of which are made of plastic polypropylene) we are using to protect ourselves from the virus are ending up in our waterways or harming wildlife in places that were already facing plastic pollution problems.
Now, New York City-based architecture firm SLO Architecture is finding a purpose for at least a portion of those discarded face masks with a concept it’s calling Turntable. Located in Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park in Camden, New Jersey, the 24-foot high 20-foot wide project was made using a combination of face masks and plastic bottles to create a spinning dome.
Commissioned for a community initiative organized by the city’s Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, the dome will serve as a focal point for the initiative’s goal to transform the shoreline area from an illegal dumping ground into multi-purpose community forums.
There’s a historic connection to the project as well since local legend describes an 18th-century windmill buried beneath the site in what is now Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park. The windmill operated on a once-existing island between Camden and Philadelphia, and low tide would help form a land passage to transport goods directly to the island. Thanks to this natural sandbar, Camden became a vital merchant hub.
The designers used only brass grommets and 3-ply polypropylene face masks for the dome component, as well as plywood and steel for the outer structure and 2-liter plastic soda bottles and chicken wire for the outer skin. They cut thousands of plastic soda bottles to create the windmill shape that helps harness the area’s wind energy. The cylinder spins above the scaffolding while the woven face masks create a light fabric dome reinforced with plastic in a feature that the architects say “forms a space to contemplate the cycles of Camden’s history and potential energy ahead.”
Images courtesy of SLO Architecture