Amazingly this eco forward thinking idea came about way back in 1963. Envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken, the “brick that holds beer” was ahead of its ecodesign time, letting beer lovers and builders alike drink and design all in one sitting. Upcyclying is a 21st century term, coined by Cradle to Cradle authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart, but the idea of turning waste into useful products came to life brilliantly in the early 1960’s with the Heineken WOBO .
Mr. Heineken’s idea came after a visit to the Caribbean where say the beaches littered with bottles and a lack of affordable building materials. . The WOBO, meaning world bottle, became his vision to solve both the recycling and housing challenges that he had witnessed on the islands.
The WOBO were meant to be laid out in the same manner as brick and mortar construction. The bottles came in two sizes and would interlock when put together. Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the Heineken brewery didn’t support the WOBO and the idea stalled.
Today, the shed at the Heineken estate and a wall made of WOBO at the Heineken Museum in Amsterdam are the only structures where the ‘beer brick’ was used. As to the remaining WOBO’s it’s not clear how many exist, or where, but the idea, even some four decades later, remains a lasting example in end-use innovation. The image on the left comes from a University of Kentucky design student who created this solar power bus shelter in Kentucky, up-cycling beer bottles.