Composting Shed by Groves-Raines Architects


Scottish studio Groves-Raines Architects have completed a composting shed in Edinburgh made of the bars normally used to reinforce concrete.

The structure consists of interlocking steel rods, which have been curved and twisted to create an organic shape that appears to emerge from the ground.

The shed has been constructed using a technique similar to willow weaving and the rods are rooted in the ground.

The structure is completed by a steel roof planted with grass.

The shed serves as a garden store and the surrounding space as a composting area.

The project was one of the winning entries for the American Institute of Architects Excellence in Design Award announced last month.

The following information is from the architects:


A garden composting shed in Edinburgh, designed by Nicholas Groves-Raines of Groves-Raines Architects Ltd. has beaten off competition from 61 other International entries to win an American Institute of Architects Excellence in Design Awards 2010 alongside David Chipperfield, Niall McLaughlin, AHMM and Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners. Presented at the AIA annual Gala at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London on the 14th of April, the Excellence in Design Award honours the design of completed buildings by UK architects anywhere in the world, and by architects of any nationality in the UK.

The Awards are highly valued by architects around the world because they confer trans-Atlantic recognition. Past winners include Foster & Partners, Zaha Hadid, Will Alsop and David Chipperfield. This year the jury who included Eva Jirnica and David Morley agreed that the quality of entrants was so high that 6 winners were selected as opposed to a single winner and runner up.

Conceived as an extension to the garden at Inverleith Terrace, Edinburgh (a detached house remodelled by GRA in 2003) the organic form embraces a 5 tonne boulder and provides a point of interest to both garden visitors and walkers alike on the adjacent Water of Leith Walkway to the North. The structure which serves as a composting area and garden store is made entirely from industrial concrete reinforcing bar and is constructed using a technique similar to traditional willow weaving. It rises organically from the ground flowing upwards from the path edges also constructed from woven re-bar.

The construction method minimises any impact on the ground and surrounding mature woodland as the vertical reinforcing rods are driven straight into the ground rather than using traditional foundations. Air and sunlight pass naturally through the structure providing ventilation for composting while creating unique light patterns which change constantly throughout the day. The green roof is made from EPDM lined steel and planted soft swaying grasses which further strengthens the connection with the wooded context.

See also:


Weaver’s Nest by
Animal Farm
Spanish Pavilion by
More architecture

Posted on Friday May 7th 2010 at 4:40 am by Catherine Warmann. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • klejdi eski

    but will the steel resist to rains and humidity ? That’s why they cover the still with concrete in reinforced avoid corrosion.

    I hope the structure is well-calculated and resistant..since it looks “handsome” :-)

  • kimbo

    These guys got it right! Kudos.

  • All photos by Dan Farrar –


    Seems like a huge waste of steel- nothing remotely green or sustainable about that

    • Bill

      Steel corrodes and the iron can spur plant growth. It's green.

  • 42si

    I am so glad to see that ‘Invention’ can still happen especially with everyday building material and translating it into architecture. Beautiful…

  • The steel will last a long, long, long time before rusting to the point that it losses integrity.

    Awesome design, and well done. Sweetness.

  • I love it…absolotely great a idea!

  • alex

    wow, fresh and impressive use of re bars. structural failure due to corrosion should not be an issue for as long as the owners are alive.

  • @Klejdi,
    The layer of rust that will form on the steel will protect the rest of the material from corrosion (like cor-ten). The reason you would be concerned with steel rusting in concrete is that rust takes up more volume than steel, so it’ll cause the concrete to crack and it’ll compromise the connection between the steel and the concrete… eventually the steel will lose any grip against the concrete making the reinforcing useless.
    This project is really cool though, did they bend the rods on site or before hand? the curves are so smooth. it looks amazing,

  • Mac

    @klejdi eski …

    It is the other way around: steel is added to concrete for reinforcement!

    • Alex

      Yes, it is added to concrete to reinforce the concrete structure (to provide tensile strength, which concrete lacks) but you are missing the point of what is being said.

      The rebar requires a decent connection with the concrete to do this.

      The rebar needs protecting from the elements not because it will rust away into nothing. It won’t (at least not for a very very long time) because it will form an oxidised layer on the outside, which protects the rest of the steel. The reason to protect the steel when it is reinforcing concrete is to stop this oxidised layer from forming because it can blow the concrete (cause bits to literally be blown off) and weaken the connection of the steel to the concrete, thus stopping it from providing the tensile strength it is there to provide.

  • Congratulations. This is really nice

  • jgo_mo

    This seems like an incredibly wasteful and environmentally irresponsible choice of material (steel rebar – no mention of whether it was re-used or not so I’m guessing not). Instead of “using a technique similar to traditional willow weaving” why wasn’t willow actually used (or at least partly)? Since when did rusted steel reinforce any “connection with the wooded context?” Blatant greenwashing.

  • TYH

    It seems that STARCHY and jgo_mo are moving toward an ideolgy of the new ‘Sustainable McCarthyism’. Accusations without any substantial or credible comment for a real critique.

    Firstly, steel and concrete is an acceptable LEED building material. It is long lasting and can be recycled. Re bars are included in this catagory. Try and think for yourselves instead of riding on the naive train.

  • It is a brilliant idea! Clever way to use a humble building material..

  • would have been nices if the reinforced steel’s surface was coated to become softer + prevent poisoning from injuring yourself on the rusty surface.

  • XXY

    TVH may have a point, but the fact that steel and concrete are acceptable LEED building materials do not make them innately sustainable. LEED is a series of better ideas, a “less bad” way to build – not a perfectly sustainable system. So yes, try thinking for yourself.

  • TYH

    XXY in the context of this structure (can I assume that you like this?), is there a ‘perfect’ or ‘less bad’ substitute? I am not arguing for LEED but rather using ‘sustainability’ as a blind crituque.

    I can see using sustainablilty as a critique when a project has balant misuse of materials but this project specifically is a singlular creative use of simply rebars.

    Is there still a sustainability opnion that is valid for this? If my initial point is agreeable to you than good but think of the context of the debate.

  • XXY

    TVH – we are probably in basic agreement, and I do like the structure from an aesthetic perspective. I was simply taking exception to offering LEED as a benchmark of sustainability.

  • Janine Lazur

    Love it! Glad to find your blog through a series of reposts (Core 77 <–Home Design Find <–Dezeen)