Sonakshi Pandit

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Situated on a contested site—a former quarry and landfill—the project degrows Edinburgh’s Craigleith Retail Park, transforming it into a hub for upcycling low-value materials into architectural components. This effectively shifts the site’s focus from a market-driven and car-dominated approach, to one that percolates a philosophy of care, reuse and repair. The proposal probes a deconstruction of the site’s current value systems, transforming it into a social hub and forum for the surrounding community and visitors. With interventions including a climbing wall, sports field, running track, performance and event facilities, the proposal reintroduces public space and pedestrians to the site, propagating a more equitable sense of well-being.

Finding value in existing elements on site, the project repurposes the shopping cart as an architectural component—a material that potentially risks obsolescing, considering the rapid growth of online shopping, further strengthened by the outbreak of COVID-19. The project upcycles the 950 shopping carts found on site into ‘gabion-carts,’ utilising their immediate affordances to identify structural, programmatic, environmental and social strategies for the project. These gabion-carts are used to construct transformable structural walls that can be climbed, seated on, played with and used to store goods. The modulation and thermal inertia of the rubble fill material inspires varied articulations of light and the invention of a gabion-cart trombe wall-system to passively heat the building. In this sense, the project revaluates the lowly shopping cart, unveiling its latent potential and promulgating reuse and upcycling as degrowth methodologies for the built environment.

Hacking the site’s retail infrastructure, the proposal strategically juxtaposes the existing lightweight steel structures with denser gabion-carts. This, coupled with the ability to ‘grow’ the gabion-carts with rubble fill from demolition works, weaves an original tectonic system into the material networks of Edinburgh, prototyping the diversion of low-value material streams into architecture.

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