UCL Urban Laboratory



UCL Urban Laboratory and the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies are collaborating during the 2019-20 academic year on a shared research theme, Waste.

An oversized crumpled up ball of newspapers sits on a gallery floor

UCL Urban Laboratory and the IAS are committed to thinking across the arts, humanities and social sciences – and bringing engineering, planners, architects, hard science and the Medical School into the conversation with the arts, humanities and social science. Our new collaborative theme of Waste is open to the widest possible interpretation and is assumed to address the concerns of many disciplines and departments while providing a frame for thinking across or even bypassing entrenched or established modes of thinking.

The conversations we have been having around the theme have included the following concerns:

Waste and space, waste of space

wastelands, waste dumps, no-go areas and washed out zones, land laid waste, disused space, space abandoned or unloved, uninhabited and uncultivated, overgrown or desolate, watery waste, space laid waste by damage/design, environmental/ecologies of waste/space, spatializing waste, land-fill and land left, leakages and spillages, poisoned landscapes and toxic fall out, weeds and wild growth, international politics of waste, transporting waste, geographies of consumption and rubbish

Waste and cities

lifecycles of buildings and sites, atmospheric waste and pollution, waste management planning, waste and density, energy waste, waste and urban/building design, urban wastelands, demolition/destruction waste (e.g. through fire) and urban contamination/regeneration, waste and regeneration

Waste and time

time wasting, spare time, squandering effort and energy, using up time, spoiling or spilling time, life-wasting, wasting away, degeneration and decay, the ravages of time, the uses of time

Waste and money

useless expenditure, rampant consumption, squandering and seduction, throwing away, used up stuff, writing off, built in expendability, economies of waste, consumer culture, excess, extraneous commodities and surplus stuff

Wasting of/from the body

decay, disease, wasting away, waste matter, secretions and emissions, bodily waste (blood, sweat, skin, excrement, snot, pus, urine) shedding and peeling, oozing and emitting, pouring and secreting, unsuccessful organ transplantation and tissue regeneration, recycling bodies – burying, incinerating and composting

Waste and things

rubbish and rot, throwing out, throwing away, wear and tear, decay, left-overs, refuse, uselessness, by-products and binned goods, putrefaction, literal waste – garbage, excrement, detritus and trash, refuse matter; unserviceable material,  remainders, useless by-products, unsaleable stuff, dangerous waste – pollution, carcinogenic and radioactive matter, poisoning – and its psychic and physic consequence

Useful waste

repurposing, recycling, re-using, transformation, treatment and technology, repair and reuse, channelling waste – infrastructures of waste – sewage, excremental economies, lavs and loos,  the architecture of waste – toilets, recycling plants, building materials and structures from left-overs and salvage, sustainability and harnessing energy and stuff, composting and composing from waste and muck, fermenting and rotting, circular economy and zero waste

People and waste

societal dregs, those designated as rubbish or worthless, useless folks and expendable groups, the dirty and undesirable, the surplus and vilified, class and caste,  labour and livelihoods, waste workers and garbage collectors, waste harvesters and contaminated/infected communities/folks, figurations of filth: rag pickers, street urchins, marginalised groups; unproductive labour, citizens and subjects

Waste and behaviour

brain function and waste, habits of wastefulness, changing behaviour, managing waste, psychic excess, emotions and energies, dirt and desire, scatology, waste and education – consumption behaviour, mass media, information and propaganda, political correctness

Waste and technology

obsolescence, malfunctioning, disused matter and materials, digital waste and trash – and its consumption of physical space, surplus and virtual expenditure and excess

Key projects

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