Superuse Studios: Ultra Reuse & New Flows in Design

Recent news about the architecture profession has been pretty dismal. The percent of unemployed architecture graduates is higher than any other degree. Gender inequality continues to proliferate the industry. The Architecture Billings Index is still on a roller coaster.

But there is hope in people pushing the boundaries by being inventive with practices, projects, and clients. The Architecture Foundation’s recent exhibit with Rotterdam-based Superuse Studios displays one such practice that has a unique agenda.

Inside Flows

Superuse focuses on ‘resource-based’ design, which they explain as:

“superusing available flows and resources and connecting them into urban ecosystems.”

This can be applied to building materials, energy supplies, human resources, water, transport, and food. They are expanding the typical architectural process, toolkit and material palette to incorporate design “as a phase in a continuous cycle of creation and recreation, use and reuse.”

The Flows

Through this approach, they have identified 14 ‘flows’ in 3 categories that they apply to projects, many of which have multiple flows.

You can probably surmise what all of the icons stand for, but just in case not, here is the list:

  • Users
  • Nature
  • Food & Other Organics
  • Inorganics
  • Traffic
  • Water & Liquids
  • Air & Gases
  • Electricity
  • Heat
  • Light
  • Sound
  • Data, Information & Knowledge
  • Money
  • Culture

I like organizational strategies so I found this very useful in understanding the inputs that influence each project, which then can translate to different skills and interests of stakeholders, users, and team members. Do you think this would be useful for your projects? I can think of a few where this approach would make explaining the project much easier!

The Projects

The exhibit featured 18 projects that are displayed on repurposed airline carts, a very clever idea that’s truly ‘walking the walk.’


All of the projects had a different aim and output and would be a lot to cover for one post so I picked three of my favorites to feature.

Liter of Light

A Liter of Light

This is one that I heard about a few years ago and I was happy to see that it’s still in operation. A simple solution for homes without electricity access–reuse a plastic water bottle, fill it with water, and suspend it halfway through a hole in the roof. It brings in the equivalent of a 55 watt bulb, and is much cheaper and quicker than waiting for the government to install electricity lines as well as saves money on electricity bills. MyShelter Foundation has already reached 15,000 homes in the Philippines and has been growing their efforts to Peru, Columbia, and Switzerland.



I’m sure you’ve heard about the prestigious Venice Art Biennale and Architecture Biennale that showcases some of the most progressive, thought-provoking work going on in the modern world. But what happens to these exhibits each year after the Biennale is over? This is where Re-Biennale comes in. They are a collective that reuses materials left behind for community projects in Venice. The Wonderland Pavilion was completely built out of materials from the 53rd International Art Biennale, and now they’re building two community projects with Forte Marghera residents reusing materials from Anupama Kundoo and Michael Dickson’s ‘Wall House’ exhibit. Repurposing temporary exhibits for longer-term community projects is reuse at it’s best.

Sustainable Dance Floor

sustainable dance floors

I was drawn to this one because it’s fun and reminded me that not all of the social impact issues have to be so serious. Dancing brings out joy and unites people through music and movement, no matter how ridiculous you might feel or look. The concept is kind of like ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ but uses the dancer’s energy to power the floor module’s lights rather than matching to a beat and dance steps. The intent is to make users aware of their own energy, interaction and impact on the environment. I think this one could go even further by using the energy to power the entire venue, from the lights to the sound system to user’s phones. That would be a sustainable club!

Some of the other projects can be found on INSIDEflows, such as the Metro Virtual Store and Building for Water Collection, along with GRO Holland Mushroom Facility, Par Ici repurposed light fixtures that are used in the exhibit, the ReBuilding Center, and the new online material resource (currently in Dutch at Oogstkaart.)

If you’re in the London area, I recommend checking out the exhibit, which is on display until 31st July.

Do you have any favorite practices, projects, or processes that are pushing the reuse boundaries? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Image sources: Katie Crepeau, Liter of Light, Rebiennale on Flickr, Energy Floors on Flickr

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