The Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA) in Christchurch was initiated in 2012 as a way to reimagine a city in flux, finding its feet after its devastating earthquake. FESTA is curated by Te Pūtahi, a non-profit focused on the current rebuild and ongoing renewal of Christchurch. In 2016, FESTA’s headline event was “Lean Means”—a night of installation and celebration framed around exploring sustainability through the reuse of waste materials for creative urban regeneration.
A third-year Massey University student team created a canopy of scavenged cardboard pipes (waste from the carpet industry) hung with rejected climbing rope from a framework of borrowed building props in an inverted pyramid form for a 12-week course.
The Massey University team titled the project “Pipe Dreaming.” The name came from the materials—cardboard ‘pipes’—but also from another meaning of the phrase: If a “pipe dream” is “an unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme,” the team wanted to consider, is a sustainable future a fanciful hope? Through the act of creative thinking—dreaming—could they bring new life to old materials and new life to a city in a state of flux?
The team had adopted the “Superuse” ethos of Jos de Krieger from Superuse Studios—letting the properties of salvaged materials lead and being playful with them. Dumpster diving, trips to the landfill and getting experimental with the qualities of waste materials lead the process. They also engaged with Julia Morison, a local Christchurch artist who acted as client, provocateur, mentor, ears on the ground, team member and host.
The collaboration with Julia as artist also speaks to another key aspect of the project: an interdisciplinary mentality. For past FESTA events, design teams have been drawn from architecture exclusively, but this year FESTA extended the invitation to a Massey team that was open to all design disciplines.
Their task had been to produce a public installation with zero budget made from waste materials, to entertain the public and engage them with urban renewal and sustainability. Massey is based in Wellington and the event was in Christchurch, so the team needed to test with materials beforehand as they prototyped the installation and secure a similar waste stream in Christchurch in order to avoid transporting materials. In a 48-hour period before the event, the team collected cardboard tubes from around the city, prepared and stenciled them and constructed the pavilion on-site at the venue.
The tubes were stenciled with words that came from the design process and then they projected visual explorations using waste materials onto the tubes. Thus, the tubes function as pavilion, folly and sculpture and at night they became a three-dimensional cinematic screen.The spatial experience inspired delight; young and old interacted with the form as it swayed in the breeze, the hollow tubes creating interesting acoustic effects. The projections and a ‘zine made by the team (by overprinting on waste paper) were talking points.
The team’s statement about the project reads: “We know we are not changing the world with this one thing, but if people enjoy the space, talk and question things, that’s a successful outcome. From our very first conversation with Julia, when she spoke about bringing people together around her table after the earthquakes, we wanted to make a space for conversation. If people are drawn to ‘Pipe Dreaming’ and they interact both with it and other people, that’s great.”
"Students actually making things! Fantastic. It’s wonderful to see a project where the physical materials generated the inspiration for such a playful, interactive experience. This was a simple idea executed well, on a tight budget and with highly sustainable materials."
"The fact that these students achieved such impact with a next-to-nothing budget is inspirational and encouraging—it makes me think that we should all spend more time in dumpsters and back alleys before considering more expensive methods of fabrication. Anyone can spec some high-end material and have the execution cover-up lackluster design, but to take materials, literally of out the dump and elevate them into meaningful, communicative vessels takes a level of skill and creativity I'm proud to see in student work. Gold stars for everyone."
Tzu-Shiuan Huang, Rachael van Wieringen, Sarah Joubert, Nicki Gordon, Katie Deller, Maggie Meiklejohn, Nicole Gesmundo, Franziska Steinkohl, Calvin Lai
Jo Bailey, Nick Kapica (instructors), Julia Morison (artist)