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Garbage Art

 Nota Bene (Slovakia) 28 May 2019

(Originally published: 09/2009) With the help of Tom Rijven to Zilina, a world-famous architect specializing in construction of eco-houses from straw and clay, the Zilina Zariecie Cultural Centre has become one of the few successfully Slovakian Garbage Architecture experiments. This small, but growing trend, involves limiting the amount of transformation and transportation involved in the construction process. It is a simple philosophy that may well help us overcome the problem of global climate change. The less you transform and transport, the more environmentally friendly the project will be.  - By Staff writer

Bratislava, Slovakia - 1.5 milliard tons of garbage are produced globally every year, 19 million in Slovakia. Garbage is an embodiment of our customer behaviour. We buy, use and throw away just so that we can buy new garbage and start the whole process again. There are people, however, who prefer to create. Garbage collectors use it to produce works of art, handbags, furniture, but also to build houses and cultural centres.

One passion, thousands of reasons

"Collecting is very enriching, even educational: you look at a stamp and think: where the hell is it? And before you realize you are trying to find the place in the atlas..."explains tan ex-philatelist Anton Kuhanek. For many people collecting is also a form of self-actualization, escape from tedious job, a perfect way to socialize. Garbage collectors, however, differ in many aspects from their conventional colleagues. Classical collectors need money to collect, garbage collectors collect in order to survive. A picture of a homeless person scavenging in the bin evokes disgust, in better case pity, but only a few of us contemplate the quantity of things which are thrown out when they still can be re-used.

Not all garbage collectors, however, collect because they don't have a choice. Some re-cycle and re-create the collected material, give it a new value and thus show that re-cycling is a great way to save the environment as well as money. Amateur Gabage Art is for everybody - browse through the things that you are about to throw out and you can try it yourself!!!

S2 in Zilina made from straw and crates

Not all garbage art work, however, can be made DIY. In order to produce a quality work a la "Gargbage Architecture"  - such as "Drop City" with houses made of wooden and cement constructions filled in with tin from train wagons or "Earthship"  buildings from cans, tires, used glass and plastic bottles - expertise is essential. The houses designed by Michael Reynolds (the author of Earthships) have a self-sufficient energy, water and heat sources and have been used as a rapid solution for a hurricane/tsunami zones. In Slovakia similar projects are only beginning to sprout. Theatre space S2 - a part of Cultural Centre Train station, Zilina Zariecie is one of the few successful Slovak "Garbage Art-chitecture" experiments.

A cocktail of building materials

A public initiative, Truc Sphérique, and its cultural centre, Zilina Zariecie, have managed to make a lot of projects with a few basic resources. Everything began with the conversion of an old railway station, Zilina-Zariecie, into a popular art space and a meeting point for artists, art lovers or just random passengers, as the railway station still serves its primary function. Exhibitions make the waiting for a train more enjoyable and many passengers decide to take a later train and go to an interesting workshop or performance. Mainly beer crates, straw, old panels, mud, nails a few other building materials were used to build the new theatre space S2. Hundreds of volunteers - all together lowering the building costs of S2 to incredible 5 or 6 thousand Euros (151,969 - 182,363 SKK) also made the project possible. Many cultural institutions wouldn't be able to cover their monthly running costs with such a budget. The use of unusual building materials was not only very economical, but also ecological - straw in particular is a very environmentally friendly building material.

The helping hand of a world-famous architect

Together with the public initiative ArTUR (Architektúra pre trvalo udržateľný rozvoj - Architecture for sustainable development), Truc Sphérique brought Tom Rijven to Zilina - a world-famous architect specializing in construction of eco-houses from straw and clay. During a two week workshop Tom shared his know-how in straw-clay eco-architecture with volunteers participating in the project. He has built more than fifty buildings from straw and clay all around the world. He knows the material he works with intricately  and he uses his straw as an isolation for a van in which he travels the world.

Perfect Straw

Tom is convinced that straw and clay will become very popular as a building material; it's only a matter of time till the people realize their amazing properties and get used to this alternative. Straw is an excellent heat isolator and clay plaster is very effective humidity regulator - absorbing it from the air when the environment is excessively humid and emitting the humidity in dry environment. Marek Adam - director of Truc Sphérique became a great fan of these materials - "After you mix straw with clay it holds and stands - you almost don't need any other material - no thick panels - and it's pretty compact - I needed to cut off a little piece today and I had to use a saw.

Enriching exchange

Tom Rijven accepted the invitation to Zilina because he found the idea to combine straw and clay with plastic beer crates interesting and he also really appreciated the volunteering aspect of the project - "It's not only a cheap way to create something new, but also a great opportunity to share knowledge, experiences, to learn something new." He was also intrigued by the opportunity to raise eco-awareness and to start a critical debate "before you begin to build anything ask yourself whether you need to transform and transport the material. The less you transform and transport, the more environmentally friendly the project will be. "

Cultural space S2 will host the 2nd International Animated Film Festival - Anča - already this summer. The Anča's audience, however, won't be the first to come through the door of S2 - cultural events organized before the theatre space was even finished were usually crammed full -S2 proves that garbage art and architecture have its place in Slovakia

Garbage art and architecture around the world


Budhist beer- bottle Pagoda

A pagoda of Thai Buddhist monks from Sisaket built entirely from beer bottles is an eco-friendly adventure for the senses - owing to alteration of green Heineken and brown Chang beer bottles  the pagoda plays with  fascinating colour patterns  which change depending on the sun position.

Garbage design against the cricis

Peruan Ofelia Reategui living in Costa Rica, combats the financial crisis in a very innovative way - she creates art, furniture and accessories from old newspapers and magazines - her assortment is rich, cost none.

Cardboard armchair

Creative ecological solutions in interior design become increasingly popular among Slovak businessmen. Peter Blaha's company Verdeo specializes in cardboard office accessories and furniture design. Other materials that Verdeo uses in its models include used tires, glasses, plastic bottles, and white electronics.

Nota Bene: Why did you choose to run this kind of a business?

S2: We saw a gap in the market - interest among big companies to become more eco-friendly when it come to interior design as well as supplying and lack of desired products on Slovak market.

N.B: What are the prices of your products - Is there any difference between conventionally produced models?

S2: Prices of armchairs and lamps can reach 200 euros, because the production of these products is rather complicated - the prices are therefore more or less comparable with designer furniture.

Prices of shelf systems - with automatic mass production - are comparable with IKEA prices, and they have other advantages - they can be folded in a minute and moved easily, what makes them ideal for people who are always on the move.

N.B: Cardboard furniture can't be used for more than 10 years, what can the customers do once they can't use the products?

S2: Our furniture is 99% recyclable, we recommend therefore that our customers leave it in an appropriate garbage container, but in future we would like to offer "servicing" - collection  of the used products directly from our customers.

N.B:  How should a customer behave in a cardboard armchair - can we afford to treat it as an upholstered furniture?

S2: You can afford to do what you please - only be careful with water.

N.B: Who are your customers?

S2: Contrary to what we expected, small businesses with strong ethical values - not big companies - these are saving where they can more than ever. But we receive various orders - we even had one lady calling and asking whether we could make a cardboard Barbie bed.

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