Aug 16th 2023

Bridging Chicago and New York State with Material Reuse Architecture

One year ago, the 2022 Bethel Woods Art and Architecture Festival in New York asked for unique, temporary design projects, and Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture Visiting Assistant Dillon Pranger celebrated the use of reclaimed lumber to build an informal gathering space, temporary stage, and viewing platform.

The “temporary” structure, BoardWalk, stands to this day on a hill overlooking the historic grounds of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. As proof of the growing appetite for sustainable strategies in the built environment, the project was named runner-up in the 2023 Rethinking the Future Awards, as well as a notable recognition in the 2023 Core77 Design Awards.

BoardWalk is part of Pranger’s ongoing effort to reduce waste in the built environment. “The idea began when a client approached us with the hopes of developing strategies to maximize material reuse through the disassembly, as opposed to demolition of, a former ironworks and foundry building in central New York,” Pranger says. “Working with local contractors throughout the deconstruction process, individual materials were cataloged, sorted, and inventoried for evaluation of future use potential.”

The team saved more than 13,000-square-feet of eastern hemlock and red oak wood boards, many more than 100 years old, from the waste stream.

BoardWalk was built from only recycled nylon strapping and reclaimed wood. The 40-foot-long installation, assembled as a series of dry-fit layers, offers unique hammock-like surfaces and a structure seeming to float, and it can easily be dismantled and reassembled. “BoardWalk offers each of its elements another lifecycle opportunity beyond their present one,” Pranger says.

Pranger is heading back to Bethel for this year’s festival on the same Woodstock grounds. IIT Architecture students will help build the pavilion campus before it is deconstructed and reassembled on site—all with reusable materials in mind.

Projects in New York such as the Bethel festival keep Pranger busy, but his focus is shifting to Chicago. He is currently working with a Chicago deconstruction company that shares the desire to expand material reuse. And as his projects continue gaining recognition, he believes more opportunities will present themselves throughout the region.