Thursday, September 4, 2008

A True Architectural Feat....

You know how, in my last post, I was saying how nice it would be to have compartmentalized trash/recycling receptacles in our parks? Well, it turns out that we do. The city installed eleven of these shiny new receptacles near "The Bean" in Millennium Park earlier this summer. These 40-gallon receptacles are the result of a design competition. Not just any design competition, mind you-- this contest pitted teams of young architects-- ARCHITECTS!-- against each other.

These brilliant structural engineers put their heads together, sketched blueprints, and toiled for more than three years to come up with the object you see here-- an elliptical catch-all with a trash bin on one side and a recycling bin on the other. The magnitude of this competition reminds me of a contest held back in the early 1890s before Chicago's Columbian Exposition. The object of this competition, however, was to design a structure that would rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which was unveiled at their World's Fair back in 1889. The winner of that competition was a bridge builder from Pennsylvania, George W. Ferris, who invented-- you guessed it-- the Ferris Wheel.

All sarcasm aside, these receptacles are pretty cool. They look sharp, incorporate some recycled and reclaimed metals in their design, and seem to work pretty well. The winning team of Deborah Kang and Amanda Smith calls their design the EcoTrio "Millennium" model. The original design had three compartments, but was later scaled back to two. I assume this was done to increase capacity and to reduce the risk of confusing the tourists.

The duo has several different models out, including receptacles for home and office use, with more models in the works. I am particularly excited about the "Restaurant" model (I cringe every time I think about the amount of recyclables that enter the waste stream at food joints every day, simply because these restaurants don't have the time/space to source separate). The different-shaped slots on the recycling sections are not new, but as the designers explain:

"The receptacle has a circular opening for containers and a rectangular slot for papers. These openings invite users to recycle. The waste section of the container has a lid that is opened by an attractive elliptical foot pedal. The extra second it takes for users to access the waste section of the container will give them a chance to think if the material they are throwing out could be recycled instead."

The "Pricing available upon request" part leads me to believe that these snazzy bins cost a pretty penny, but I still would like to someday see more of these receptacles (or something similar) throughout our great city. The idea is so deceptively simple, it's brilliant. And c'mon-- if the tourists can figure it out, we all can.

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