Department

See-Through

A Denver architect finds a new use for discarded plastic water bottles—and the outcome is like a work of art.

April 2013

Architect Mike Moore likes to see the world through his clients’ eyes. So when his firm, Tres Birds Workshop, was commissioned to design the new office for 3i—a Denver biotech company that develops optical microscopes—he asked to see the microscopes’ images. What he saw (airy, circular cells) held the answer to one of the project’s biggest challenges: how to infill 20-foot garage bays (from a former diesel truck repair shop) with something translucent, insulating, and cheaper than glass. What he came up with—recycled plastic bottles—seemed at first difficult, but now appears inspired. He and his team repurposed the plastic bottles to optimize their thermal potential and replicate the elegant cellular structure seen under the microscope. The result is a frosted-window-like wall, created using about 21,000 recycled plastic water bottles (from Waste Management), that is both highly functional and a beautifully expressive backdrop.