To recycle something, it does not necessarily have to be physical, it can be as ephemeral as an idea or a concept. Every year, there is a huge amount of intellectual outpouring that gets shelved for eternity, caught in the purgatory of the “also ran”, the losing concepts in architectural design competitions. The nature of these competitions often dictate that entries become the property of the entity who is holding the competition, meaning that if a design is not chosen, it is lost, unused and now the property of an owner that felt it unworthy, out of the hands of its creator. As a solution for this unique situation, the Toronto-based research and design collective Department of Unusual Certainties has created a concept called Warehouse for Architectural Recycling, or W.A.R. for short. Their elaborate proposal calls for a headquarters (delightfully called the W.A.R.HEAD) located on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, office and auction houses across the globe, and an industry based on the auction and curation of the loser architecture.
W.A.R. is a global network that aims to exalt losing ideas of the past and find new applications for them. In its multiple capacities W.A.R. acts as an archive, curator, auction house, sales representive and research centre.
Archive: The vast collection of bought-up ideas is digitally and physically stored in an underground bunker at W.A.R.HEAD. Designed to withstand the worst nuclear winter, W.A.R.’s archive will offer future survivors a glimpse into the creative failures, curiosities, and overlooked wonders of the architectural world. The collection also forms the source material for all of W.A.R.’s other activities – curation, auctioning, and research.
All of the different functions of W.A.R. are explicitly detailed out, along with the in depth hierarchy of the administration, as you can see illustrated below.
While this is clearly a concept with now expectation of literal realization, and does seem to be done with tongue firmly in cheek, like the best of concept designs it brings to like and provokes thought on some serious questions. There is a great deal of wasted effort put into ideas that are never realized, and that are held in legal limbo, forcing their state of unrealized concept. While some of these ideas are surely terrible and deserved of their unbuilt status, think of all of the second and third places, or concepts too far out or not in the taste of the judges. I have only given a brief taste here of the full imagined organization, and you should got read the full details, along with the Brad Pitt origin story. The Department of Unusual Certainties seems like a very interesting group themselves, who explore architecture and urban spaces well beyond the realm of buildings.
Department of Unusual Certainties is a Toronto-based research and design collective working at the interstices of urban design, planning, public art, spatial research and mapping. The Department’s work is informed by one guiding philosophy – that the city is the physical manifestation of a long sequence of unusual certainties, each one simultaneously more unusual and yet more certain than its predecessor.
They look like a group to follow, and am very curious about what they produce in the future.