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Sustainable Cities Congress in Morelia, Mexico.

November 20, 2009

A few ago weeks I attended the first international Congress for Sustainable Cities in Morelia, Mexico. Ok, so the name isn’t all that catchy but we have to start somewhere.

A few months prior, I was asked to put together a proposal for a small exhibition at the event. After a quick brainstorming session I came up with a load of ideas and sent them off to see if any would be accepted. The following day an email arrived in my inbox.  After a little translating from the wonderful Marianna (it was written in Spanish) I understood all the ideas had been accepted and I had 4 weeks to bring them to life. So off I went.

The main idea was to create an exhibition using nothing but things I found on the streets of Mexico City. The final outcome ultimately ended as an eclectic selection of bottles, cans and glass. However a little extra digging revealed electrical cables, plastic sheeting, stainless steel sheeting and a load of wood.

The idea was to create an exhibition that informed and educated the audience but primarily showed that green (reusing) can be desirable. Of course I could have just made some huge crazy sculptures from rubbish but that would just show that it’s possible to turn waste into art. But hey, we already know that. I wanted it to be more inspiring, more appealing; I wanted to create objects desirable to people in the world we live in.

So that was the challenge and this is what I created.

‘Nest’: made from 100 plastic bottles attached to a rusty wire frame found on the streets and painted white. The lamp stand was found on the streets of New York during the time I lived there.  The only purchased object was a CFL light bulb as well as a splash of white paint.

(Left)  ‘Plastic Chandelier’: made from the bottom of 160 plastic bottles of almost any variety. The top of the lamp was made from a plastic paint lid; the metal rods bent into shape I got from a long piece of metal both of which were found on the street. For this, I purchased nylon thread (of which I hardly used any) and a CFL bulb.

(Right) ‘Hats’: made from 16 coca-cola bottles. Again the stand was found on the streets of New York and the CFL was (like the Nest) purchased. I also needed 16 nails that I already had.

(Below) ‘Daisy Field’ : made from the neck of 70 plastic bottles attached to a clear plastic board I found on the street. The frame was made from found wood and illuminated by LED fairy lights that I already had.

As part of the exhibition we made a short documentary where we asked people a number of questions ranging from recycling,  global warming solution all the way to asking what a sustainable city is. Surrounding this content was a number of short videos ranging from famous quotes to a short insert from Ken Yeang: a leading architect on sustainable skyscrapers. The video below is an animation I created for the event. This video was picked up by Channel 22 in Mexico and broadcast on national television. (This is the English version and below is a link to the Spanish version)

Other parts of the video can be found on our youtube channel at

(Left) ‘Bottle Earth’: This was created from a burst yoga ball I had. Attached to it (using industrial glue) there were about 500 bottle tops. The idea for this was to take all the plastic bottles used at the four day event and see how much of a globe we could create from this waste. Considering this was an environmental congress, sadly we collected more than 300 plastic bottles.The idea was to show that we just are not doing enough to solve our greatest problem. I mean, come on guys, frankly this is terrible. By the end this ball was more than half full.

(Above) Surrounding the video and Eco Lamps I created 25 boards with information about our planet, global warming and human effects.

The final idea was to give something to people for them to take away with them. Here we printed the idea of the 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) on scrapped paper from an office a friend of ours works in.

The exhibition was really well received and apart from the video being shown on national TV, most of the lamps were purchased (that wasn’t the idea but people kept asking). The wooden boards with painted facts were bought by a guy that gives talks on the need for solar energy and will be appearing in a number of environmental publications. The giant plastic bottle globe was donated to a school for children with learning difficulties who will complete the globe from the bottles collected in their community.

So all in all, it was a great success. I could not have done it without all the help of Marianna who supported the entire project, Carine for printing things at her office, Fer for lending us her massive car , Chris and Rafa for driving us to Morelia. And of course Eduardo for introducing me to the organizers. Without these people this couldn’t have happened. Thank you.

Thanks for reading…


PS. More photos can be found on my photo webpage

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