Otago Polytechnic

What does a local architecture firm have to do with challenging a waste crisis 10,000 kilometres away in China?

Architecture van Brandenburg, which has studios in Dunedin and Queenstown, has been working on the design for the Marisfrolg Apparel Headquarters in Shenzhen, China. Professor Leoni Schmidt, Head of Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin School of Art, was invited to reflect on Architecture van Brandenburg’s cross-disciplinary approach as part of her research into the links between architecture, visual arts and sustainability.

Inspired by Spanish Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi and ‘biomimicry’ – the process of referencing the natural world to escape from traditional geometric shapes and Eurocentric designs – the firm chose to only use waste materials as cladding for the Headquarters.

“Currently the smooth white surfaces of Marisfrolg Apparel Headquarters are being finished with waste produced in China, a country fast becoming one of the major waste accumulators in the world,” says Leoni. “Architecture van Brandenburg’s practice brings together the unfurling of beautiful natural forms in space with an ecological system of working…The waste materials add value to their work while also transforming the base materials into a higher aesthetic whole.”

Leoni’s research, which accompanied Architecture van Brandenburg’s exhibition during the 2014 Architecture Biennale in Venice titled Unfurling was so successful that the firm was invited to exhibit in San Francisco for four months in 2015. There, the exhibits and Leoni’s second article were appreciated by well over 3000 people.  

Schmidt, L. (2015) Architecture van Brandenburg in an Era of Waste Crisis. South African Journal of Art History, Vol.30, Number 2, 2015: 139-145.

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SUSTAINABILITY & TRANSFORMATION