Gaining Ground: demolition waste as raw material

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Cities have always been built with and upon the remnants of their predecessors. Vast quantities of rubble produced through demolition, conflict, and natural disasters underpin nearly all places of habitation as part of a globe-spanning anthropogenic deposit that Matt Edgeworth has called the ‘archaeosphere’ (2015).
Whilst such material is considered ‘waste’ in the sense of a ‘left-over’ or unwanted substance, in the immediate aftermath of deconstruction or destruction, such rubble rarely remains ‘wasted’ for long, and often becomes reused in new cycles of construction. While small-scale architectural salvage and ‘spolia’ are well recognised archaeologically, the reuse of bulk quantities of demolition rubble in the creation of new or altered terrain is rarely discussed. It is the investigation of such landscaping processes, where rubble acts as the primary ‘raw material’, that is the subject of this paper.
Employing a contemporary archaeological methodology, I trace how demolition waste has been used to radically alter the landscape using examples from the UK and, in particular, acts of land ‘reclamation’. In exploring the history of such sites, I also examine how this creative reuse of waste material necessarily disrupts taken-for-granted assumptions and assertions about the value of particular materials and places.
Period31 Mar 2022
Event titleSociety for American Archaeology 87th Annual Meeting
Event typeConference
Conference number87
LocationChicago, United States, IllinoisShow on map


  • waste
  • waste landscapes
  • land reclamation
  • rubble