Over the past few years, a small handful of one-off projects have garnered accolades for incorporating plastic sea trash into statement-making sportswear like designer denim and super-sweet sneakers. And let’s not forget snazzy hand soap bottles and vacuum cleaners, too …
Now, SPARK, an award-winning international architecture and urban design studio that we previously found fusing senior living with urban farming, is looking to harness the potential of recycled plastic ocean waste and apply it to a large-ish-scale architecture project.
Both eye-catching and statement-making, SPARK’s Beach Huts concept is the prettiest — and certainly most kaleidoscopic work — of (speculative) recycled plastic design wizardry that I’ve come across. Envisioning Singapore’s East Coast Park as a potential locale, Beach Huts are a series of elevated oceanfront camping structures that, as you can see, look like supersized Day-Glo pinecones. Or maybe pineapples dressed up for an EDM party. Or avant-garde lollipops. You be the judge.
The huts are naturally ventilated and self sustainable, they shelter the users in the traditional sense of the beach hut from wind and rain whilst providing a level of basic amenity, enjoyment and fun.
As SPARK director Stephen Pimbley recently explained to Dezeen, the huts’ botanical form is meant to evoke “both traditional English beach huts and thatched grain storage huts from South Africa” although the inspirational plant in question isn’t from the pine, bromeliad or Truffula families. “The hut form is similar to the Casuarina tree seeds that are found on the beaches in Southeast Asia,” he explains.
Plants aside, the recycled plastic Beach Hut concept, which Pimbley believes could “act as an important vehicle for educating the public about the state of the world’s oceans and the problems caused by the flagrant dumping of plastic and other waste material into the sea,” would revolve around the collection and reuse of non-biodegradable high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which constitutes a sizable amount of the waste (think: laundry detergent and dish soap bottles, milk and juice jugs and the tubs that contain your Greek yogurt and non-dairy buttery spread) found polluting the world’s oceans.
To create Beach Huts’ colorful modular tiling system, HDPE waste would be culled straight from the Great South Pacific Garbage patch before it's cleaned, sorted by color and shredded down into small granules. It would then be melted down and poured into moulds to form the huts’ signature tiles.
“The hut is clad with a modular tile made of recycled HDPE plastic, much in the same way that timber shingles are used to clad simple dwellings,” Pimbley tells Dezeen, adding: “It’s unlikely ocean waste HDPE could become a primary building material, but there is no doubt it has potential as a material source for a wide range of product."
Rentable for the night, the recycled plastic-clad shanties would be timber-framed and perched atop precast concrete pedestals. Campers would need to be on the nimble side as the only way to access the huts’ interior is to crawl up and down a retractable rope ladder and through a trap door. Once inside, there’s not much in the way of amenities to speak of — just a raw sheltered space to crash for the night. There doesn't appear to be proper windows or skylights incorporated into the design which is a bit disconcerting. However, there are transparent "vision panels" and each off-grid hut also has integrated solar cells that power interior lighting.
Different types of “scales” display varying degrees of solidity and transparency facilitating privacy and views across East Coast Park and the Ocean. The 'scales' at the top of the hut are printed with thin film PV (photo-voltaic) that generates power to support the interior fan and general LED lighting of the hut.
The infinite colour variations possible using recycled HDPE will produce a family of beach huts that are engaging and elegant contributors to the Singapore shoreline whilst telling the story of an imaginative reuse of a plastic material that is part of our everyday lives but which given its disposable nature is contributing to the destruction of ocean life and our environment.
While conceptualized for Singapore, Pimbley tells Dezeen that Beach Huts, if all goes as planned, might first be realized at a beach along the Australian coast.