Soft Rubble

Building rubble – one of the world’s largest waste streams – is mainly downcycled for the construction of roads, the backfilling of exhausted quarries and other landscaping processes. As the seemingly valueless material is filled back into the ground, the natural landscape we quarry to create it turns into a man-made landscape that stays untouched.


With Soft Rubble, Charly Blödel investigates mechanisms of value production and loss. In a performative build-up, textile containers made of Polyethylene sheet are filled manually with crushed rubble. This construction system can be filled and emptied repeatedly to create a variety of spatial configurations, becoming a tool to engage with the changing value of our material surroundings.

  • PhotographyViktor Hübner
  • ProductionZeilmakerij Van Doorn, Rotterdam
  • Material Supply & Building SiteVan Berkel Bouwstoffen & Transport

The Western city exists in a state of hyper-productivity resulting in an imminent reproduction of the urban built environment. As a new building is erected, the previous is rendered obsolete. This swift exchange generates swaths of building waste. In 2015 alone, the city of Rotterdam produced 394.000 tons of building rubble. After being transported to a recycling facility this mixed-mineral waste is crushed and downcycled to filler material in landscaping and backfilling processes. Soft Rubble investigates mechanisms of both production and loss of value in the context of the fragile existence of raw matter on the verge of becoming mineral waste. It does so in the form of a construction process that positions building waste as building material.

To build the first prototype of Soft Rubble, 5 people filled 12 tons of building rubble into 4 bags in 8 hours.

The building team including Lisa Machemer, Charlélie Flamant, Matilde Losi, Daniel Parnitzke and Charly Blödel built the first prototype at Van Berkel Bouwstoffen & Transport, a building rubble recycling facility in Eindhoven on June 13th, 2020.

Soft Rubble is a tarpaulin construction system comprised of differently shaped textile containers made of 250g Polyethylene sheet. In a manual process, these reusable textile elements are filled with crushed building rubble to form rigid yet flexible stone walls. Any number of these containers can be combined and filled to create a variety of spatial configurations site-specific to local context and materiality. Preserving the porous material state of building rubble, Soft Rubble becomes a tool of activation to engage in both a physical and abstract manner with the changing value of our material surroundings.

The three-metre tall bags were produced by hand at Zeilmakerij Van Doorn in the Rotterdam Harbour.

Soft Rubble bags are made out of 250g Polyethylene sheet with nylon seams, reinforced with a polyester strap.

»While construction industries extract natural resources from the existing natural landscape in a process of gradual depletion, man-made material conglomerates are simultaneously reverted to the same landscape. As they are filled back into the ground, the natural landscape we quarry turns into a man-made landscape that stays untouched. Why do we quarry one landscape, while we stay blind to the other?«

Soft Rubble is a master thesis project developed in the Social Design Department at the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2020 with the support of the mentors Brecht Duijf , Stéphane Barbier Bouvet, Nadine Botha and Henriëtte Waal under the former head of department Jan Boelen.

On Quarrying A Man-Made Landscape is the written master thesis that accompanies the thesis project Soft Rubble.