Why WALL•E Works: Cities of Rapid Re(f)use

When I arrived at the fabulous Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in colorful Glendale California, my expectations were elevated. I was going to meet people with the finest imaginations on earth and talk shop. I had prepared a presentation that would unpack a comprehensive view of tomorrow’s world. It’s a world free of carbon loading in the atmosphere and abundant in self sufficient lifestyles. I had meticulously crafted cities so rich with green wisdom they made Kermit (the frog) appear like Dubya – or so I hoped. As an eco savvy architect, my work includes most things buildable within the rubric of a socio-ecological domain. Everyone and everything in these urban ideations were carborexic to the hilt. This means rethinking the design of entire systems, from doorknobs to democracies. I design places for people to fit symbiotically into their natural surrounds. To achieve this, all things possible are considered. I design the cars, trains, blimps, streets, as well as the parks, open spaces, cultural districts, civic centers, business hubs, etc. that comprise the future metropolis. For centuries cities have been designed to accommodate the drama of our human will. I have joined the ranks of delivering a new sense of the city, one that privileges the drama of nature over anthropocentric whims. I was vying with the good people at Disney for a profound clairvoyant perspective. I wanted them to preview a likeness of our collective future yet untold. Much to my chagrin they were light-years ahead, at least when it came to the topic of municipal wastes. At the time, I had a sketch of a new city composed of waste ordered by massive industrial 3D printers. A cadre of my students had run thru a number of iterations. All were schematic, but I inherently knew this was an exciting vector. When Ben Schwegler, Chief Imagineer, Mouseketeer and mastermind, took me behind the proverbial black curtain to reveal WALL•E, I was crestfallen. They beat me too it. WALL•E is perfect – almost. He is a tightly packaged solar powered, curious, obedient, evolved, robotic trash compaction and distribution device. His name is an acronym; Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class. Left behind by mankind, he toils with trillions of tons of non-recycled inner-city trash. Not only is he a highly advanced rubbish manager, he is a mechanized new fangled Mesopotamian architect. He piles Ziggurats quicker than Hammurabi. Also, and this is vital, he is incredibly adorable. His life is a tale of an ultramodern trash compactor in love. Ceaselessly, he configures mountains of discard material. Why pyramids of trash? WALL•E’s daily perpetual feats seem almost futile. Disney omits exactly why he is programmed to pile refuse, and there's the rub. I was interested in exploring a deeper motivation for stacking refuse. What if the refuse was re-fabricated to become urban spaces or buildings? How much new technology needs to be obtained to do so, or could I modify existing methods? If it is plausible to adapt the current machinery, how much material is available? By Mitchell Joachim Model: Mitchell Joachim & Webb Allen