Plastic Plastic

Thesis Design 2021, Princeton University
04/ 2021
Outstanding Presenters Princeton Research Day
Princeton Reunion 2021 Pitch Competition, People’s Choice Award


Every year, 150 million tonnes of plastic leaches into the world’s oceans. The extent of oceaning plastic contamination is rapidly approaching a critical level where there will soon be more plastic in the ocean by mass, than fish. Currently, the vast majority of plastic leaches into the oceans via polluted rivers, and coalesces into vast ‘plastic islands’ deep in the ocean. However, despite being aware of the points of discharge and coalescence, little has been attempted to collect waterborne plastics. This is because the extreme disparity between the minute scales of plastic pollutants, and their colossal areas of contamination, makes it challenging for humans to adequately comprehend, let alone manage.

Our thesis situates architecture as a medium through which both scales of plastic pollution can be addressed, as a tool through which plastic pollutants can be consolidated into a manageable and perceptible scale. Focusing on the Pacific garbage patch and the mouth of the LA river as sites of intervention, this thesis speculates upon the development of novel architectural systems for the extraction and long term storage of aquatic plastic pollutants.

Once implemented, our sites serve to consolidate plastic sediments from vast geographies of minute fragments, into a dense nucleation of plastic landscapes and architecture. Through its continued growth and mutation, the site becomes a lifeform for the accumulation and eventual digestion of plastic pollutants. As societies gradually transition away from plastics, towards less harmful alternatives, we anticipate the growth of the site to stagnate, transforming it into an artifact of bygone plastic consumption, all the while locking away plastics within the dense fabric of the city.