Eco-Structures: Sustainable Recycled Pavilions

In the realm of construction and architecture, the innovative repurposing of existing waste materials, particularly plastic, offers a sustainable alternative to the use of new resources. With millions of tons of plastic waste ending up in landfills annually, pioneering projects are turning this crisis into an opportunity by creating repurposed pavilion structures. These structures divert waste from landfills and display the potential of recycled materials in eye-catching and sustainable architectural creations. Below, we explore a list of innovative recycled pavilion structures that mix environmental responsibility and creative resilience.


Upcycled Beverage Cartons

In 2015, architecture students from ETH Zurich University presented their innovative approach to sustainability at the Ideas City Festival in New York City by constructing an upcycled pavilion with a arch shaped structure made entirely from repurposed beverage cartons. This project was made with an idea in diverting potential landfill waste by transforming it into a functional architectural structure. The pavilion was meant to show the creative reuse of materials, adhering strictly to the use of repurposed items without including any non-recyclable elements. This initiative converted waste into an incredible, usable resource and also served as a vivid example of how sustainable design concepts can integrate waste materials into building projects. The pavilion was created to prove the potential of sustainable architecture and the students’ commitment to environmental responsibility.

(Image credit: ETH Zurich University Upcycled Pavilion)


Water Can Dome

The Hong Kong-based Daydreamers Design studio has been actively involved in creating innovative, eco-friendly installations. For the 2014 Festival of Lanterns, they constructed the Rising Moon Pavilion, a dome-shaped structure made from 4,800 repurposed five-gallon water bottle cans, each outfitted with LED lights. This project was designed to raise awareness about environmental sustainability and to spark conversations on the topic. The structure was built with the intention that it could later be disassembled and its materials reused again for different purposes, focusing its sustainable design.

(Image credit: Daydreamers Design Studio - Rising Moon Pavilion)

Upcycled Plastic Bricks Pavilion

In 2020, Daydreamers Design continued their target on sustainable architectural solutions by creating a pavilion made of upcycled plastic bricks at the Autumn Festival in Hong Kong. This structure, noticeable for its geometric shape and flame-like red and yellow tones, was a first of its kind for the studio in terms of scale and material usage. The pavilion was another step towards promoting the potential use of eco-friendly materials in building structures, displaying innovative ways to repurpose plastic waste into effective and aesthetically pleasing architectural elements.

(Image credit: Daydreamers Design Studio - Flame Pavilion)


Upcycled Basket Pavilion

In 2021, South Korean architect Hyunje Joo, known for his award-winning designs, created a minimalistic pavilion using 1,300 upcycled transparent baskets. This sustainable installation was constructed entirely from existing materials, avoiding the use of new resources to minimise environmental impact. The pavilion was also equipped with multicoloured lights, adding a dynamic visual element to the structure. Designed with a staircase-like exterior, the pavilion offered a dual function: it served as a seating area where people could rest and as an interactive space, allowing visitors to walk underneath and experience the installation from various angles. This simple yet innovative structure highlighted how minimal resources and potential waste materials could be repurposed into meaningful architectural projects, challenging the conventional reliance on new raw materials for construction.

(Image credit: Hyunje Joo - 1300 Upcycled Basket Pavilion)


3D-Printed Plastic Waste Public Pavilion

Nagami, a Spanish brand known for its sustainable and circular design in interiors and architecture, partnered with Hassell, an architecture design studio, to create a 3D-printed public pavilion specifically tailored for harsh climates. This collaboration launched in 2023 was driven by the goal to repurpose the abundant plastic waste that affects our environment and contributes to climate change. Described as an "ecological pavilion with a futuristic design," this project stands out for its innovative use of materials and for its functionality. The pavilion was developed through a series of prototypes, resulting in a transferable pod-like structure that acts as a shelter in extreme environmental conditions. This initiative by Nagami and Hassell was introduced to push the boundaries of material use in architecture with sustainability and the repurposing of waste materials. This project shows how modern design methods can match environmental goals to make practical and attractive solutions for challenging situations, using advanced 3D printing technology.

(Image credit: Nagami x Hassell Public Pavilion)

The architectural world witnesses creativity as designers experiment with available resources. Reimagining the use of discarded materials, architects minimise environmental impact and push the boundaries of traditional design. These approaches highlight sustainable architecture, transforming everyday waste into useful and striking structures. This practice preserves resources and inspires a new wave of ecological structures in the design community, paving the way for a more sustainable future in architecture.

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