Note — Aug 22, 2021

On Geofoam

The first time I saw this product, I was kind of flabbergasted, who the heck buries huge blocks of foam under roads?? Anna and Kelly Pendergrast explain why, how, and look at the environmental implications which are, as always, not that simple. Also included for the last quote below, because I’m a sucker for useful lenses on the world.

Geofoam appears at first glance like a hypermodern product: Minecraft made physical, an architectural model in the flesh. It can come as a shock to realize that giant bricks of polystyrene are stuffed below the turf, like silicone implants under the skin of a city. All is not as it seems — below the dirt is not always more dirt. […]

“EPS blocks exhumed from a construction site in Norway after more than 20 years of burial were found to be in good condition and were re-used.”[…]

Geofoam’s artificiality is in no way unique. It’s just visually striking, and thus a useful lens for thinking about the built environment. For something so lightweight, it’s laden with meaning and contradiction.