HWM Architects Creates A Recycling Center In Switzerland
Switzerland’s reputation as a clean country is based in part on a refined recycling system that includes a dense, countrywide network of so-called “kihöfe,” literally “eco-yards,” where residents can deposit trash that has been sorted by material for eventual recycling or disposal.
While these recycling centres are critical pieces of public infrastructure, they are rarely considered architecture; this project in the Lucerne suburbs is an outlier. It is not only fully demountable and recyclable but also a bold statement about design’s role in material reuse, as designed by Swiss architect Huber Waser Mühlebach.
The project benefits from the logical spatial organisation and a simple, harmonious design. The programme is divided into two buildings: a large hall along the outside of which people drive to drop off their trash, and a five-story tower that houses administrative offices and serves as the facility’s entrance.
The tower’s four open floors contain offices, while the top floor contains all the common areas, including a coat and break rooms, a staff kitchen, a loggia with a large circular window, and a large central hall that can also be used for conferences or events. Its wooden structure is not connected directly to the two concrete cores that surround the toilets, elevator, and staircase; as a result, all wooden components can be demounted and reused almost entirely.
The large, unheated hall follows the same constructivist logic of minimising waste. The expansive wooden roof—393 feet long and 74 feet wide—forms a large cantilever on one side, shielding the outdoor parking spaces and trash drop-off zone in front of the hall below from the elements. The roof is supported by 24 purple steel columns that are completely demountable and have been configured to allow for greater spacing between the main girders. Additionally, their twisted shapes eliminate the requirement for stiffening walls or structures.
This grid divides the hall into eleven strips, each three containers wide, two trucks deep, and equipped with one rolling gate on each side for maximum daily use flexibility. The facade’s design is identical to that of the tower, emphasising their connection as two distinct components of the same compound: It’s a layered composition comprised of a dark-glazed wooden formwork atop an untreated wooden substructure, purple-red painted columns—the column’s purple colour is repeated in the textile blinds that shade the tower’s windows.
These subtle aesthetic connections elevate a suburban recycling centre to the level of architecture while still providing a robust and functional tool for collecting and sorting household trash on a daily basis. Notably, this centre was constructed with the intention of being temporary. Within the next two decades, the nearby highway junction will be completely redesigned and largely relocated to underground tunnels.
According to the city planning authority, once this transformation is complete, land prices will increase and the recycling centre will be forced to relocate. The architects anticipated this possibility with their demountable design, and assuming the age of the material well over the next two decades, both buildings can be disassembled and relocated as needed.
Written By Tannu Sharma | Subscribe To Our Telegram Channel To Get Latest Updates And Don’t Forget To Follow Our Social Media Handles Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter. To Get the Latest Updates From Arco Unico