Trans - form - medium: the transformation of light, space and process through the medium of glass, a glass recycling hub for Waste Reclaimers in Newtown

Hardman, Murray R.
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High levels of unemployment are a reality in many of the urban areas of South Africa. Poverty and hardship compel many of the unemployed to venture into the urban informal economy in order to survive. The South African government have found new ways of creating employment opportunities, one of which is within the recycling industry. There is an increased demand for minimizing mankind’s environmental footprint. Glass is a material that has been used for centuries and has the ability to be recycled infinitely without losing its quality (Marson, n.d). This together with the need for glass amongst consumers and the endlessly recycling nature of glass makes glass recycling a significant sustainable measure in considering environmental impacts (2011, 2012 Annual Review: Glass Recycling Company). Despite these properties, glass continues to be an undervalued material that can utilize low technology in its recycling process. This study aimed at investigating the formal and informal recycling economy within the city of Johannesburg by providing the opportunity for the Waste Reclaimers (Trolley Pushers) to be an integral part of the recycling process, specifically with glass. A further aim was to explore the tectonics of a factory to create a space where the Waste Reclaimers could gather, connect and engage with the product of glass. Lastly it aimed to provide a space where the general public could also engage in the product of glass recycling thereby creating awareness and promotion of recycling. The project proposed a glass recycling factory where the process of glass recycling culminates with the production of glass. The site selected for this research is located within the industrial part of the Newtown precinct. This has become a central recycling hub for the Waste Reclaimers of Johannesburg as it links private recycling centres within the city. Newtown is an area of flux, marked by a history of industrial and political disruption. This area represents change and opportunity for growth and life. A space recycled and regenerated throughout the history of Johannesburg. The reason for the choice of topic is that the evolution of recycling in Johannesburg has reached a point where municipalities need to acknowledge the informal sector as a valuable part of the recycling economy. The majority of the literature on recycling and the organization of the recycling process predominantly focuses on the collection of waste as means of job creation. An opportunity therefore presented itself to highlight the production, and craftsmanship of recyclable material. To clarify and further place the Waste Reclaimers within the existing waste management system, the theory of Phenomenology has been explored. It will focus on the phenomenological term of “Lifeworld” which describes a way of life where the individual’s aspiration, perceptions, experiences, beliefs and behaviour forms a holistic unity towards a fulfilling, meaningful, existence (Seamon, 2012). This exploration will give insight to how this building will provide the Waste Reclaimer a sense of identification and orientation within this system of the recycling industry. In order to better understand the complexity of the existing waste management system, the theory of Systems has been explored focusing on the principal of an open system as a way of broadening the lifeworld of the Waste Reclaimers Precedent studies of PFG Building Glass windscreen recovery facility; Zama City Waste; the comparison of factory tectonics between the Crystal Palace, Toledo Museum of Art Glass and the Crucible Glassblowing studio; the Glass Chapel and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art were used to inform the design. The network of the Waste Reclaimers was also documented in order to understand their routes and network across the city and the surrounding suburbs. The impact of the design found that the proposed space created opportunities for pause and transformation using light, space and process. The idea of transformation is process. Process is represented by a linear path with adjacent spaces of function and support. These spaces will transform according to their activities and associated light qualities. These spaces will thus become the medium through which people and activities change.
This document is submitted in partial fulfillment for the degree: Master of Architecture [Professional] at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, in the year 2014. Supervised by Professor Diaan van der Westhuizen