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Cornell Biennial: "Circulating Matters" by Felix Heisel and Circular Construction Lab

Monday, October 31, 2022

Arts Quad
Central Campus

Circulating Matters is an outdoor installation for the 2022 Cornell Biennial, Futurities, Uncertain, that identifies the potential of a future, local circular construction industry in Ithaca, New York. The project is led by Felix Heisel, Assistant Professor or Architecture and Director of the Circular Construction Lab at Cornell.

The project directly reuses materials from the deconstruction of 206 College Ave (a 1910 residential structure that was slated for demolition and has been deconstructed instead by concerned academic and community stakeholders within an Engaged Cornell Grant), reactivating the material qualities and values of the building for the construction of the installation. The spatial design plays on concepts of circulation and circularity by reimagining a staircase as a multidirectional, spatial folly engaging with its materials’ past (patina, dimensions) and future (reversible connections, design for disassembly). The project addresses the question of how systemic concepts and methods for direct reuse of building elements at scale can be developed and implemented by combining panelized deconstruction with circular construction principles for a site-specific architectural application. The installation aims to promote a design paradigm that begins from the uncertainties of local material availabilities, and foresees futurities of material and component reuse within industrialized re-construction.

Globally, buildings and construction account for about 50% of resource extraction, at least 40% of carbon dioxide emissions and 50% of solid waste production. Within the USA alone, 600 million tons of construction and demolition debris are generated each year – twice the amount of municipal solid waste, making up about 40% of landfill waste in the country. All of these factors are dominant reasons for climate change.

The concept of a circular economy represents a way to overcome social, economic, and environmental problems of the current linear economic system, and can be defined as one that is “restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep assets, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.” The consequent closing of production and consumption loops offers not only the possibility to end the loss of valuable finite resources, but also to reduce dependencies on global, volatile resource markets, prevent greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, and support new business models and green workforce development.

Circular Construction Lab:
Felix Heisel, Dan Bergsagel, Eduardo Cilleruelo Teran, Allexxus Farley-Thomas, Lulin He, Joseph McGranahan, Maxwell Rodencal, Connor Yocum, and Yao Wang.

Finger Lakes ReUse (Diane Cohen, Melissa McKown, Robin Elliot and team); Trade Design Build (Gideon Stone, David Messmer and team); sbp engineering (Dan Bergsagel); pcrents (Chad Conley); CR0WD; David Cutter and Cornell Grounds Department (Dan Schied, Les Sills, and team).

Cornell Council for the Arts; Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; Cornell David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement; Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

View Felix Heisel's installation on the Arts Quad by McGraw Hall from Sep 9-Oct 31, 2022.

2022 Cornell Biennial
Sponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts and curated by Timothy Murray, the 2022 Cornell Biennial "Futurities, Uncertain" features exhibitions, installations, and performances by 23 international and 17 Cornell-based artists. Free and open-to-the-public events will rotate on the Cornell Ithaca campus and the Cornell Tech campus in New York City from July through December 2022.

Attend our Celebration Weekend from Sep 15-17, 2022 on the Cornell Ithaca campus. The full list of participants, along with the calendar of 2022 Cornell Biennial events, will be updated in real time at

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