Fraser Morrison: Totem for Waste


London is a world city. It is simultaneously expanding and contracting, growing ever-outwards – and upwards – yet on the brink of divorce from the neighbouring continent. The next generation of designers must deliver fresh thinking to tackle issues that range from the scale of the street to global climate change. We asked pioneering graduates from the LSA how they’d adapt London to ensure that it is inclusive of its citizens, integrated with nature and fit for the future.

Waste is an inconvenience to cities – the sooner it’s out of our sight, in our bins, off the streets and to a place we’ll never go, the better. But what if, instead of being hidden from view in an ignored landfill swamp, our waste processing plants were totems visible to all?

Retaining industry at the heart of dense urban sites, the tower for waste serves as a super visible, hyper-tall testament to recycling. The project enables the London Borough of Southwark to achieve its goal of building 20,000 homes a year by freeing up space on industrial sites. It takes the form of a vertical recycling and distribution centre, occupying a tight site on Stoney Street and integrating existing railway arches. The project opens up the rest of the site to re-establish public routes and creates a series of new public spaces to enhance and compliment the nearby Borough Market.

Presented in a stratified manner due to the structure’s vertical nature, the building’s facade expresses the various processes occurring within the building through changes in material. Drones enter and leave the building, taking waste to the tower and distributing recycled refuse upon exiting it. The tower proudly portrays the digestion of London’s rubbish and offers a healthy alternative to the industrial towers and factory chimneys that once filled London’s skyline with pollution, acting as a green, uninhabited smoke stack.

We too often ignore the waste that we produce. By consolidating all the dirty recycling processes at the heart of the city, we force society to confront its demons and move towards more sustainable ways of living.