Thursday, 24 April 2008

This building is rubbish - but that is a good thing!

I had reason to visit the Millennium Centre at Eastbrookend Country Park this afternoon. It is just down the road from where I live - but it's a bit like Blackpool where the residents are the people who have never been up the Tower! The building was opened in November 1997, and is made of either recycled or renewable materials. It sits within a kind of "green corridor" between Dagenham and Hornchurch/Elm Park, in East London. The area was originally farmland. During the building of the Becontree Estate in the 1920s and 1930s gravel pits were dug to provide raw materials for the concrete needed in construction. After World War II, rubble from the bombings of London was put into the gravel pits, and the area was used as a dumping ground until the 1980s. It was then cleared and converted into a country park.

Some information about the construction of the building can be found here. The idea of the building being screwed into the ground rather than having foundations is one that I find quite amusing. Part of the reason for this construction is that no-one was absolutely sure what had been dumped onto the site which made it difficult to design suitable foundations in the conventional sense. Some solar panels have been added to the roof - it was the potential for some A-level physics coursework around these that led to my visit. The roof is rubbish (recycled aluminium), the walls are rubbish (insulated with recycled newspaper), the floor is rubbish (recycled paving slabs, sand, gravel and recycled windscreens) etc. One of the more subtle aspects of the design is that the upward sweeping shape of the roof encourages natural air flows through the building.

And when the building reaches the end of its life ... it can be unscrewed from the ground, taken to pieces and recycled. "Remember, building, that thou are rubbish and unto rubbish thou shalt return."

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