Architecture Students Commended for Clever Design and Construction in International Sustainble Design Competition

Students in Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture won second place overall and first place in the creativity, presentation and coordination categories in “Building the Tower of Babylon: What on Earth is Sustainability,” an international competition held by the Global Alliance of Technological Universities (GlobalTech).

Seven participating teams, from architecture universities in China, India, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, constructed a tower using only local materials to create a symbol of sustainability for their region, country, city and university.

Georgia Tech’s answer to the call was a “plastic palace”—twin structures, one consisting of plastic bottles and the other a field of plastic hangers suspended from above. View video showing concept to completion.

“We selected this concept because it combines two aspects,” said architecture professor Daniel Baerlecken. “First of all, it creates awareness about two products of our everyday life: plastic bottles and coat hangers. We see how many bottles are consumed on campus on one day and we see how many hangers are wasted during one year at one local department store. The installation gives trash a spatial presence. We can see invisible data.” 

Baerlecken continues,  “But at the same time we see how waste can be highly aesthetic. The installation creates a series of spaces that inform different perceptions of the surrounding space through color, light and configuration of parts with variable connections. The project shows how waste can be up-cycled rather than down-cycled.”

The jury commended the Georgia Tech team for the concept’s societal relevance and clever construction techniques.

Jury member Rajendra Shende, Paris-based diplomat for the United Nations Environment Programme, called the use of the hangers “innovative,” and added, “Relating the quantities used in the tower to the campus activity is creative and impactful. The way it is communicated is also good; striking design and structure indeed.”

“The tower designs are highly impactful, both as beautiful, aesthetic designs that can be studied and experienced from multiple physical perspectives, but also from multiple content and conceptual approaches,” remarked juror Vibeke Sorenson, chair of the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University. “The rubber bands are a simple and elegant solution to assembly. The modularity is excellent, and the scale of the two projects is impressive.”

The competition was a first-of-its-kind event organized by GlobalTech, a network of the world’s top technological universities that aims to address global societal issues to which science and technology could be their solution.

“The problems of the world today, such as sustainability issues, cannot be solved by a single solution. However, by pooling resources and knowledge in top-class research in science and technology, done by both undergraduates and researchers, multiple solutions to tackle these issues may be found,” Prof Su added. – There is no mention of this person previously, so you need full name and title.

The "Grand Challenges" identified by GlobalTech include biomedicine and health care; sustainability and global environmental change; energy, water and food supplies; security; and changing demographics and population.


Teri Nagel, Georgia Tech College of Architecture

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