[d] Shelter, Shadow, Shield

GSD 1307 ReCYCLO: Architecture of Waste

Instructor: Caroline O’Donnell with Felix Heisel and Dillion Pranger

Shelter, Shadow, Shield


Since the mid-twentieth century, the advent of our disposable culture has brought with it a new set of ‘local’ materials, disregarded and mislabeled as ‘waste’. This study focuses on umbrellas, a non-recyclable product, and through the understanding of their formal, physical, temporal, economical, and ecological properties, a pavilion made of umbrellas was realized.



1307 ReCYCLO: Architecture of Waste

Instructed by Caroline O’Donnell, with Felix Heisel and Dillon Pranger


Rhinoceros, Illustrator, fabrication


ReCYCLO: Architecture of Waste

will be published by Routledge


pavilion, research, recycling, installation, computational design


In 2016, the umbrella global market amounted to 1.5 billion units, and Asian countries constitute the most significant portion in umbrella consumption. This is the result of historical heritage, climatic conditions and the widespread use of handheld umbrellas as protection from the sun. In addition, Asian countries also dominates the umbrella production and consumption markets, which directly results the overflown of umbrella scraps in landfills.


Lifecycle of umbrellas

The graph below shows the lifecycle of umbrellas: the entire manufacture process requires a large input of raw material and energy, and eventually generates a great amount of waste. After the usage, more than 90% of umbrellas are disposed to landfill sites and incinerators, despite the fact that most of them are recyclable via proper disposal methods.

The Lifecycle of an Umbrella

Post Usage Material Diversion

Post Usage Material Diversion


Disassembly Process

Many umbrellas end their lives in landfill sites due to improper disposal method and inadequate disassembly. Simply by removing the threads that connects the ribs and the canopy, and by twisting off the two wires that binds the stretchers to the ribs, one can easily disassemble an umbrella in a couple of minutes. By removing the thread connectors and two wires, an umbrella could be dissembled into three parts: canopy, handle, and 8 pairs of ribs and stretchers. 


kinetic property

The initial sketches traced the movement of an umbrella’s members resulted by their inherent kinetic property.

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Kinetic Mechamism

After the collection of material, the pavilion design combined the early study of the kinetic structure of an umbrella in the aspect of geometrical relationship of part and whole and the movement of members, and the further exploration of human-umbrella’s inherent relational quality. By connecting the stretcher to the ground and the rib to the edge of a platform, the ribs and stretchers could react to the shift of the platform’s height and expand out to create a canopy above the weight-shifted location. 

Depends on the weight or the number of people that occupy the space, the structure animate differently without any automation devices. The springs on the foundation are designed to allow the system reverse back to its original state. Thus, the change of the form not only suggests occupancy but also function as a collective temporary shelter. The entire structure not only performs similarly to the umbrella itself, but also removes the barriers between individuals by forming different paths, corridors and apertures. Now every occupants co-exist under a unified shelter, shadow, and shield.

Further explorations centers on deployable mechanisms. A water collection device can replace the weight-reenact system, making those sheltering devices more weather sensitive. The afterlife of the pavilion and those sheltering devices begins from the collection of all the metal parts which does not require too much labor due to the linear organization of the parts. The water collection bags made of PVC or polyesters can be removed and reused as fashion accessories.  Following the ideology of cradle to cradle, the material from umbrella could enter a new life cycle. 

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The pavilion

The pavilion is situated in the courtyard of MoMA, New York City. In order to meet the needs of connecting the two buildings across the courtyard, the pavilion is organized linearly and creates a passage way between the two sides. The courtyard fountain and trees deforms the geometry of the pavilion to frame views and generate centers of activities.

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Small activity centers could be formed to adapt to multiple uses: hallway, runway, gathering space, play space and passing space.


During rainy days, when visitor pass through the pavilion, the canopy would expand according to the weight location, providing covering for the occupier.

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