EPISODE 4: PLASTIC
Plastic has enabled an era of hygienic environments, single-use consumption and a resulting accumulation of wealth, new advances in medicine and food preservation, global logistics, and increasing energy efficiency. But was it worth it? In half a century, over nine billion tons of plastic have been produced—16 times the weight of the global population today. If plastic were a country, it would be the fifth highest greenhouse gas contributor in the world, accounting for around 5% of all emissions. And the speed of plastic production and consumption is only increasing. Plastic will undeniably impact the health of living systems for generations. So how should the built environment respond? How might design help break down, reduce or eliminate the use of plastics? How might new scalable forms of reuse applications and technology along with plant-based plastics and polymer-eating bacteria turn the page?
Join us for an online discussion as part of Material Worlds, a series that gathers experts and scholars to present fresh viewpoints on the sourcing of building materials, not only to envision the future but also to better understand the past and present of humanity’s impact on the nonhuman world.
Register in advance for the webinar.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Heather Davis is a writer, researcher, and teacher whose work draws on feminist and queer theory to examine ecology, materiality, and contemporary art in the context of settler colonialism. She is an assistant professor of culture and media at the New School. Her most recent book, Plastic Matter (2022), re-examines materiality in light of plastic’s saturation. Davis is also a member of the Synthetic Collective, an interdisciplinary team of scientists, humanities scholars, and artists who investigate and make visible plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.
Nzambi Matee is a scientist, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, and change maker. She pursued a major in physics at the Jomo Kenya University of Agriculture and Technology, where she obtained relevant foundational training in material science. Matee founded Gjenge Makers, a community-oriented organization created to address the need for sustainable and affordable alternative construction materials in Kenya and the Continent by using recycled plastics to produce paving blocks, paving tiles, and manhole covers. To date, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 40 tons of plastic and created more than 130 job opportunities in the community.
Miranda Wang is a venture-backed climate tech entrepreneur who is building an innovative plastic-transformation company. She is the cofounder and CEO of Novoloop, a low-carbon advanced recycling and sustainable materials provider that upgrades common plastic waste into performance materials. Miranda is a Forbes 30 Under 30, a UN Young Champion of the Earth, and a Pritzker Environmental “Genius” Awardee. Outside of her day job, Wang lives in San José, California, with her husband Robert. She is an avid gardener with a keen interest in landscaping and nature. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
Lindsey Wikstrom is the cofounding principal of Mattaforma, a design and research practice, and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Her Core I architecture studio explores the generative potential of material sourcing, commons, and renewability, while her Advanced IV studio focuses on the architectural and urban implications of biodiverse mass timber. Her research has been supported by the SOM Foundation, published in Embodied Energy and Design: Making Architecture between Metrics and Narratives, and exhibited at the XXII Triennale di Milano, Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival. Wikstrom has a forthcoming essay in Cite and a book project with Routledge.
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This session will be led virtually through Zoom, a free video-conferencing software. Participants are encouraged to use a computer, smartphone, or tablet with a camera and Internet access, if possible. Participants may also dial in using a phone line. Participants will receive a Zoom link upon registering.
This event was made possible through a generous gift from Emilio Ambasz. The Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment is a platform for fostering dialogue, promoting conversation, and facilitating research about the relationship between the built and natural environment, with the aim of making the interaction between architecture and ecology visible and accessible to the wider public while highlighting the urgent need for an ecological recalibration.