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An Architecture of Decay: Addressing Building Waste Through Biologically Integrated Architecture

There is a dissonance within architectural practice between buildings designed to outlive their initial purpose, and the inevitability of building impermanence. This produces unusable waste at the end of a building’s life cycle. Materials are designed to become obsolete and replaced over time, leading to additional waste during a building’s inhabitance. Construction conventions value the low-cost consumption of resources over their effect on the environment. The current model of construction, maintenance, and demolition that most buildings go through ignores the resources and materials that are used and discarded, creating by-products that can never be used again by humans or the natural environment.

In order to align programmatic life cycles with building creation and material decay, architects must incorporate decay in design, allowing building materials to continuously support human and biological use when a building is abandoned or demolished. All buildings must die, but their material by-products do not need to be wasted. Incorporating decay is an opportunity for the future growth of architectural spaces and realigns the buildings that we make with the natural cycles that affect them. Therefore, architects need to design buildings and urban landscapes with the eventual decay of products in mind, to eliminate wasted resources, and reinforce the existing natural cycles impacting our work.

To investigate this claim, this project will design a 2-story mixed-use structure, using fully biodegradable materials. This development type has a legacy in architectural practice and is a staple construction type of most major US cities. It also acts as an advantageous operating system relative to this thesis due to its resiliency to programmatic cycles and its need for continual replacement and maintenance of materials. This investigation is intended to relink human spaces with natural ones fostering the perpetual growth and balance of both systems with each other.





Master of Architecture [MArch]




Carson Stickney

Carson is currently a master's student at Lawrence Tech, completing his M.Arch in the summer of 2023. Carson also completed his B.S.Arch at LTU in the spring of 2022. During his time at LTU, he held a leadership position in the local AIAS chapter as Programming Director for two years working throughout the pandemic to try and keep LTU students connected to local firms. Carson is currently working full-time at AECOM, an international firm that specializes in large-scale commercial, corporate, healthcare, and governmental buildings. He has a vested interest in building obsolescence, and the negative impact it has on people and the environment, and plans to continue to leverage his design and computational skills to address these issues in his work.

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