Power Plant!


In collaboration with Public Works + AHO


Power plant is a public installation that captures waste heat from compost to warm a public bench.

Power Plant is a collective act. Like the artworks of Nikolay Polissky, its tectonic and its method of assembly celebrate the availability of many hands. Built on the grounds of the National Museum of Architecture as part of the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the project was designed and built in the space of one week by 15 students under the supervision of Matthew Dalziel and Tom Dobson of Public Works.

14m3 of compost, donated to the project by the city of Oslo, were piled around a coiled loop of pipe. The natural aerobic process of decomposition within the compost creates temperatures between 60-90c. This heat is transferred to the water pipes and circulates through the compost out to a public bench. The bench has a bed of sand laid under concrete pavers providing some thermal mass for heat retention.

Its structure is very similar to a wooden barrel or hot-tub construction where boards are strapped together to work in tension with outward forces of the compost within. This construction means the structure required very few fixings and can be dissembled quickly and easily.

The project is inspired by two key references. The first is the work of John Pain, a 20th century inventor who pioneered the methods for producing all his domestic energy requirements from compost by way of hot water and methane. The second is the speculative fiction of Donna Harraway who uses compost as a metaphor for the creative heat of dwelling in the complexity of the present.

Powerplant offers people a moment to re-connect with our waste stream, its need for care and its lost potentials as a resource.