Julia Jeffs + Linda Lee

Civic Futures


Bryan Boyer


The built fabric of cities is always in flux, and the constant states of transformation have material consequences—in the United States alone, construction and demolition is responsible for 40% of the waste that ends up in landfills.1 While we are surrounded by methods of remaking, retooling, and readjustment in everyday life, from the restoring of furniture found on the curb to the expansion of a garage, these reconstructive acts remain outlier practices within the larger built landscape.

COMMON MATTERS imagines a new material economy that promotes circular resource use at a city level, stronger relationships to public institutions on a neighborhood level, and a more meaningful connection to materials and materiality on an individual level. The project introduces a new type of civic institution that organizes and extends the life cycles of building materials as a public service. Material Junctions are new facilities sized appropriately within neighborhoods, rather than continuing today’s practice of locating the work in isolated, expansive industrial zones along the urban periphery, where the processes of sorting and recycling becomes abstract or invisible to the individual. Lot Shares are open air material banks where stock is stored in vacant lots, and can be configured into ‘meanwhile’ programs defined in partnership with the neighborhood. Transportation and Logistics between sites is performed as celebratory processions through the streets.

Bringing these practices into neighborhoods literally and conceptually centers material streams, their economies, and their use as a part of daily life. The Material Junction and its revealed network of functions creates moments for the material economy of the city to spark new social engagements. It brings people into closer contact with the material that enables urban life, in support of a system that allows practices of collective ownership and locally organized development to flourish.

1.  Hower, Mike. “PlanetReuse: Redirecting Building Waste from Landfill to LEED Projects.” Sustainable Brands, 28 Feb. 2013,