Karina Breeuwer
The worth of waste

Our ‘modern day society’ has reached an unprecedented level of consumption. We also pollute more than ever, and most importantly, we waste more than ever. In Europe we throw away so much that it has become a common practice to externalize our waste management. Thousands of tons of waste are shipped away to areas of the world, where non-sustainable, dangerous and unethical business practices, such as child labour is common. This does not only concern non-biodegradable products but also perished products that are burned away. Observing this current moment of change, being conscious about the amount of our waste is not enough. It’s time we employ alternatives to deal with it. Waste management often takes place in non-urban facilities in the hinterland. Hidden from the public, the quantities and challenges of our greedy consumption become unimaginable to us and hence outside of public debate. This takes away the power of education through visual means, and makes us less aware of what waste we produce. Switzerland being the second largest food waste contributor in the Europe after Belgium (almost a kilo a day per person!) we must think of a solution to make the broader public aware of the implications of our consumption. The fact that we live in a global economy does not help with this particular topic. We have such easy access all year round to special products that we often forget the immense chain of logistics and pollution that it entails. Access to good quality food must be a right for everybody, but we must deal with what these privileges encompass.

This thesis tries to find new ways of dealing with food production, its logistics and waste management in the center of the city, at the Thurgauerstrasse. The street is mostly used by cars. With its grand buildings, some- times postmodern, sometimes just immense glass facades, it reminds us of what a failed corporate dream from the 80’s looks like. Now, it needs action. Not only because it is in a city where housing becomes more and more spare, but also because we need a new way to think about these kind of spaces, which will remain empty because of their monetary value and owners. The fact that all these buildings are owned by private real estate investors makes us think who the city really belongs to. But mostly, it needs to avoid gentrification, which would destroy its potential for a fair living. A way to tackle and amplify its potential is to look at the lower levels; the street is mostly made out of empty spaces with high ceilings. Nobody rents these lobbies and atriums, as they are included in the monthly rent of an office. Ideally, these spaces would be full of wor-kers taking a break, drinking a coffee, chatting away, or playing some table football during breaks. Instead, they are silent and empty spaces that are not the least attractive.

The project looks at a broad scope of what these spaces could offer, and their potential to spill over some life in the Thurgauerstrasse making it perhaps more liveable.