Designing reflexive spaces with human waste

Communities of resourcefulness in Brussels, Berlin, and Hong Kong


  • Markus Wernli School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University



Agroecological Urban Toilets, Regenerative Waste Integration, Terra Preta Fermentation, Structural Swot, Collectivized Resourcefulness


This paper compares three interventionist eco-sanitation cases by applying a structurally
extended SWOT matrix for evaluating their transformative relations and capabilities in their respective urban settings of the global north. The enablers and barriers underlying these human waste cycling communities are assessed by combining qualitative-quantitative data collection and multiform analysis. By complementing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis with the emergent framework of Ideas-Arrangement-Effects (I-A-T), the study assesses the creative potential manifested in these cases. The eco-toilet communities address unsustainable food
systems by acting in concert with people, places, and microbes in a profoundly self-implicating process that stems from an oscillation between actionable immersion and perspectival detachment. This dynamic creates a reflexive conduit for counter-intuitive doing and thinking that diversifies dominant and hegemonic perspectives. The three cases, sensible to their respective settings, demonstrate how cultivating a rich, interactive context on the physical, social and psychological level is conducive to the suspense and exchange of positions and a plurality of perspectives on the world, human and
nonhuman. Community acceptance and individual satisfaction with urban eco-toilets stems then from balancing this unsettling repositioning with supportive involvement, whereas disrupting bathroom routines, group debates, and agroecological experimentation makes people act in better-attuned relations with unknowable otherness.


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How to Cite

Wernli, M. . (2021). Designing reflexive spaces with human waste: Communities of resourcefulness in Brussels, Berlin, and Hong Kong. The Evolving Scholar, 1.