Architect John Locke, who teaches at Columbia University and is the founder of the Department of Urban Betterment, and his design partner, Joaquin Reyes, created the Inflato Dumpster, an inflatable community event space that balloons out of a dumpster.
The Department of Urban Betterment is a group of individuals from a variety of disciplines who use design to improve the urban experience. Its goal is to challenge the boundaries of public space in New York and create things with a tangible, worthwhile benefit to the areas where they are located. Locke wanted to create an enclosure that people could walk around in, not a backdrop.
The shiny shell is made from polyethylene and Mylar strips that have space for windows and connect the interior of the dumpster to the street. Locke and Reyes chose a dumpster as the location for the inflatable space because it gave the sense of being inside a space that is normally off-limits. It also allowed them to anchor the inflatable so it would not be blown away by strong winds, and it provided them with about 160 square feet of usable space.
The Inflato Dumpster was set up in the Manhattan neighborhood historically known as Bloomingdale on a block directly adjacent to the imposing Con Edison substation for three days in September. It was the site of a concert by Amani Fela, a documentary screening by Simone Varano, and a 3D printing and modeling workshop. Locke and Reyes stood on the street to explain the piece and invite people inside. The Inflato Dumpster was especially popular with children.
Locke, Reyes, and the Department of Urban Betterment are planning to put the piece on display again in the same neighborhood in January. That display will have a musical theme.