Student Name: Lizbet Romero

School: Woodbury University

Studio: The Geological Atlas of Built Los Angeles

Instructor: Joshua Stein

The subject of landfills meant I was looking into the end life of different materials. In addition to investigating how different waste materials decompose, I also researched the physical composition of constructing a landfill. In the next phase I analyzed landfills through a geological perspective, there were many similarities between the artificiality of landfills and the formation of natural phenomenons. Even though waste is not a raw or natural material, it is still buried in a man-made pit and moves in vast quantities into the earth. Humans are depositing foreign objects into the ground, causing harmful effects to the surrounding environments— such as emitting a greenhouse gas called methane. As I was experimenting with the graphic representations of a landfill, such as plans and sections, I brought in a geological inspiration into them because waste is merging as a part of the land we roam on. I transformed the drawings of the landfill to that of sedimentary deposits, this time rearranging the waste as individual parts instead of one whole lump of waste. Through this part of the process is where I came up with the idea of exhibiting waste in individual vessels. The reason for choosing Sun Valley as the location is due to the Waste Management landfill having a place in that city and being the most notable one in the San Fernando Valley. Not to mention, that almost half of the city’s land use is industrial and the rest residential, making it a particular graduation of zoning areas. As a result, this research process eventually led me to create a proposal that aims to educate the community about landfills and waste.

Primary Image

The render takes place inside the ground level, it is a visualization with scale and the concept with how the vessel exhibit will look. I wanted to capture the minimalistic interior, it rejects the idea of the chaotic concoction that is in a real landfill. The vessels are colored to differentiate between the waste categories, they will be placed on the space according to each type. Images of the waste is filled in to demonstrate that it will be tightly compacted inside. The vessel holders are another feature I wanted to focus on in this image, how it wraps delicately around these massive test tubes. With the pathways carved out underneath the vessels, one feels as if they are actually walking through inside a landfill. I wanted to make the exhibit as interactive as possible in order to evoke sensorial experiences with waste.

Alternate Primary Image 1

This render is capturing the exterior view of the building, it is the east side looking from the parking lot area. Textures help differentiate ground, the building, and the landfill which is further in the background. The building imitates the shape of a mound, I wanted it to blend in with its surrounding and have the idea of walking into a landfill. I am proposing the mound to be a light textile material, held by tensile structures; this is inspired by when a landfill is capped with a layer of dirt when closing it down. Concealing the exhibit on the outside, yet revealing the waste on the inside. The structure shaded in red is a gantry crane, it will only be used when moving vessels in and out from the building. Underneath, a part of the vessel (gold colored) is moving up from underground.

Alternate Primary Image 2

The site is located east of the 5 freeway, being convenient for garbage trucks to transport waste faster to the landfill. San Fernando Road is west of the site boundary, there is a railroad that runs parallel beside it. Glenoaks Blvd is east of the site boundary, it is the street I chose for ease of access to the building and there are bus stops located on the intersection with Peoria St. The site plan reconfigures the materials that make up the landfill and is divided into categories: biodegradable (gold), recyclable (teal) and inorganic (red). The footprint of the building is colored in white, the voids are where the vessels are located inside. The solid circles (black) are the vessels moving out from the building, movement is shown with the dashed arrows that represent the vessels going into their specified waste category and being buried.


The first floor plan (left) shows point of egress on the east side, where the parking lot connects to the building through a pedestrian path. Another point of egress is located north of the building, the path connects to the existing landfill; it leads visitors outside for touring the site and further understand it by physically exploring it. There are eleven large vessels that have pathways molded underneath, people can experience walking through and look closely into the waste. Three small vessels are experimental compositions of waste. The underground floor plan (right) demonstrates the horizontal rail system that move the vessels inside or out. The blue circles indicate the placement of the vessels, in which they move down from. Circulations serve as structural cores. Programmatic spaces are similarly shaped like the vessels. Organization of the plans are based on a grid system.


The section is looking north into the building, a part of the landfill is shown behind. Behind the abstractly represented landfill mound, are four fumes— which is a power generating station ran by the Department of Water and Power. Mountain ranges of the valley can be seen on the other side. The section cut is highlighted by the bold red lines, exposing the underground level, ground floor and second floor. Two vessels are cut, the light red fill is an inorganic (toxic) material and the light teal fill is a recyclable material. The pathways under the vessels have been purposely shown, they are retractable walking platforms with railings. Spiraling steel structures hold the vessels, and also act for aesthetic purposes. The inspiration behind this design decision derives from test tube holders, and the concept of waste experimentations being conducted in this space.


This diagram is charting material time of decomposition and access. For biodegradable waste, it decomposes the fastest because it derives from organic matter. Recyclable waste takes up to several hundred years to deteriorate, however glass particles may never completely decay. Inorganic waste is made up of toxic materials, many which require the burning of fossil fuels in order to be manufactured. When a material is more chemically produced and treated, then it will take a longer time to decompose because its composition has become more complex, making it harder to breakdown. The reason why such waste take more time to deteriorate is due to them becoming resistant to nature. Food is recognized by nature and will decompose long before foreign objects such as batteries or plastic. We will have access to the harmful waste buried inside landfills for many years to come. 


Biodegradable Vignettes: these three vessels display the most common organic materials found in a landfill. Food makes up a large portion of the total waste found in landfills, it reveals the vast amount of food that is thrown out. Food is landfilled more than the other biodegradable materials. Paper is generated more than food, but a large fraction of it is recycled and it is the least landfilled of these materials. Most of the green waste is composted, meaning it is transformed into fertilizing soil; it is not generated as much as food or paper. This is information visitors will learn when going to the exhibit, to raise awareness on our consumption habits. The vignette on the left demonstrates the sensory experience of the vessel on the top floor, these tubes that connect will emit the smell caused by each material.


Recyclable Vignettes: these three vessels display materials that can be reused or remanufacture to create the same material without having to produce them from the very beginning. Plastics (not pictured here) is the most generated and landfilled recyclable material; it makes up 18.46% of the entire landfill waste. Around 60 million plastic bottles are disposed daily in the US. Metals are recycled at the highest degree, steel makes up almost all of the total metal waste. Glass is the second commonly recycled material. Wood decomposes at varying rates, depending on the type and whether it has been chemically treated (stain or paint); lumber takes the longest to decompose. I compiled these recyclable materials together because they are commonly used in architecture. Extracting them from landfills can be an opportunity for future construction if materials become scarce; or we mine them for other means of production.


Inorganic Vignettes: these three vessels display some of the most toxic materials found in a landfill; meaning they have gone through an extensive, intricate manufacturing process and contain hazardous chemicals. Batteries are disposed of in great quantities and they contribute to leachate production, which is a contaminated liquid developed in landfills. Styrofoam is another particular inorganic material that is believed to never decompose, and it is definitely not recyclable. It can melt when surpassing 460ºF, however it releases very harmful chemicals such as styrene and carbon monoxide. Electronic waste contains some parts that can be recycled, which are the metals found inside cellphones, computers, etc. All of these materials are not capable of being recycled and are meant for one-time use only. The temperatures inside landfills can reach up to 145ºF, toxic waste adds to the possible fire hazards and greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.