A Project by Tobias Nolte

Mine the Scrap

Tobias Nolte’s project proposal Mine the Scrap is aimed at developing a technology-enabled process to reuse construction waste. It applies technology used in facial recognition and robotic construction to the problem of detecting, sorting and assembling shattered pieces of glass. The final outcome will be a technologically enabled interpretation of a stained glass window.

“Mine the Scrap re-interprets artisanal processes of construction through the lens of computer vision and construction automation while addressing the pressing need to convert waste into resource.“


The basis of the project proposal is an unsorted and disparate stock of glass pieces, which are currently unusable because of their irregular shape and geometry. Taking inspiration from artisanal processes of quilting and stained glass window-making, Mine the Scrap first uses software to determine the best way to reuse the pieces, then creates an automated process of sorting and assembly. The software output is fed into an industrial robot that assembles the pieces into a stained glass window. By inverting the traditional process from design to procurement, Mine the Scrap suggests a resource-driven approach to design.
Tobias Nolte’s design work utilizes geometry, mathematics, data and new technologies to create new spaces and ways of fabrication. Tapping open-source software and knowledge, and embracing a flexible collaboration structure, he engineers new software and robotic tools to eliminate unnecessary complexity and enrich human experience. The project Resource Flows, developed by Tobias Nolte in collaboration with Andrew Witt, illustrates these ambitions. Architecture is increasingly influenced by deep resource supply chains, which includes the extended economic and environmental impact as materials, tools and components are manufactured and distributed. Tobias Nolte and Andrew Witt developed a software tool that simulates such potential consequences, specifically in the fabrication of materials, and allows users to understand the deep cumulative implications of design decisions. Resource Flows displays a variety of alternatives that could lead to more robust outcomes and a more sustainable future.

Sketch Resource Flows
Sketch Resource Flows

Tobias Nolte is an architect living in Cambridge (Massachusetts) and Berlin. Along with Andrew Witt, he co-founded the design office Certain Measures, which operates at the intersection of form and science.

Images: Tobias Nolte