Bottle building – 1963 & 2011

Guest Blog by Matthias McGregor

The Guardian has some great videos from the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas earlier in January. The Miniwiz bottle building (pictured below) really caught my eye:

Alex Chou of Miniwiz shows off the company’s recycled plastic bottle building blocks, which have been used to construct a fully functional five-storey building in Taiwan..








Great concept, but it’s not exactly a new one. It reminded me of Heineken’s WOBO experiment almost 50 years earlier. Alfred Heineken was on holiday in the Caribbean island of Curaçao, and was dismayed to see thousands of glass beer bottles littering the beach, many of them bearing his name. Back in Amsterdam where the Heineken brewery was based, the average bottle was recycled 30 times. But on a small island like Curaçao, with neither the means nor incentive to recycle, each beer bottle was used once and discarded.

Heineken hired Dutch architect John Habraken to design the WOBO (for WOrld BOttle), literally a “brick that holds beer.” Habraken’s vision was for anyone to be able to build a 10′ x 10′ shack from a thousand bottles, with a simple enough construction that the method could be printed right on the label. The end result is a uniquely shaped bottle is designed to interlock together with a silicon-cement mortar. A prototype shed was constructed from the bottles on the Heineken estate in Amsterdam.

Sadly that prototype was as far as the project ever went. Marketing and money scuppered the good intentions as the execs didn’t want to sully their branding by seeing it turned into homes for the poor. The worst part about reading up on all this wonderful paleo-tech is that time and again it was drawn to a premature end just as breakthroughs were being made. These bottle bricks can join fuller domes and archigram cities in my list of coulda-shoulda heartbreaks. shames x

With thanks

See also: glass

About Pollibricks:

In general: Strategies for Sustainable Architecture by Paola Sassi

Peter:  Good to see practical, sustainable technology in action. When I have seen recycled glass, it is often purely utilitarian. Alex Chou, using specially designed inter-locking plastic bottles, appears to be considerate of how the wall will appear. I will stay on the look-out for other aesthetic projects.  If you are unfamiliar with the work carried out by the Centre for Alternative Technology, see their site at