A new sculpture has been put up between Dulles Hall and 18th Avenue Library, called “Privy 2: Biosolids and You,” and is surrounded by a patch of corn fertilized by human waste. Credit: Amal Saeed | Photo Editor

Emerging from a patch of corn between Dulles Hall and 18th Avenue Library, a new structure celebrates the stuff students would rather flush away. 

The structure, called “Privy 2: Biosolids and You,” is a research collaboration by faculty and students from the Knowlton School of Architecture and the Department of Anthropology. It features a pavilion made of recycled plastic bottles, surrounded by rows of corn fertilized by human waste product.

“What this project is doing is trying to give people the opportunity to really think about the ways in which waste can be reused as resources in ways that we would deem to be responsible and productive,” Nick Kawa, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, said. 

Kawa and Forbes Lipschitz, assistant professor of landscape architecture, led the project through the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT), according to the Ohio State Discovery Themes website.

Kawa and Lipschitz worked alongside students to design the plot and later included Justin Diles, associate professor of architecture, to design the pavilion, Kawa said. 

The project is about “exhibiting transformations of waste in central Ohio” and is presented through the recycled aspects of the project in both the cornfield and pavilion, Kawa said. 

The corn is fertilized with a substance called ComTil, “a compost product made with residual biosolids from the City of Columbus’s wastewater treatment plants,” according to the website.

Kawa said he ties anthropology into the project by showing that human waste can be used as a resource, something he said American society often takes for granted. 

“We’ve seen throughout history that lots of different cultures have managed human waste in ways that made it productive for agriculture,” Kawa said. 

Kawa said the structure is open to interpretation, but to him, it represents inverted infrastructure. 

“I think what is cool about it is people can read different things into it, but at its core, it’s made from recycled material,” Kawa said. 

Diles said the pavilion’s design process required building a 4-by-9-foot oven to heat the foam panels made from plastic bottles, which were then formed over large molds. 

Diles said the name of the structure is a call to an outhouse, but also refers to the Ohio State community “becoming privy to innovative or imaginative ways that we can transform waste.” 

An inauguration party will be held Sept. 6 to celebrate the full completion of the structure. By this time, the structure will include graphics on the inside of the pavilion, as well as a booklet on-site featuring “photos, art, and a series of essays on the history of waste management and its relationship to agriculture,” Kawa said in an email.