Cyclopean Cannibalism

Matter Design & Quarra Stone

Cyclops is described in Hesiod’s Theogony as a race of giants, known for constructing massive stone walls. Cyclopean masonry consists of massive stones fit precisely together, despite their diverse sizes and shapes. Their assembly is so dramatic that it conjures myths of giants. Of the numerous civilizations that produced these megalithic stone works, the Inka constructed without a preconceived design. This architecture emerged through a sequential logic informed by the constraints of resources. The Inka stone works were computed. When materials were scarce, stones were re-adapted into new works. They consumed their own cities!

In today’s urban context, we generate unprecedented quantities of waste. There is an impending crisis hinging on how we deal with this debris, specifically from buildings. In order to more intelligently reconsider the existing building stock, the profession could learn a great deal from cyclopean constructors. These methods force us to relinquish pre-determined design composition in exchange for a systemic, intelligence design, capable of responding to unknown conditions. Cyclopean Cannibalism deciphers the Inka method and translates it into a possible contemporary method. Future cities demand a creative cannibalization of their accumulating debris and stagnating structures. Can urbanism of the near future be re-imaged as architecturally self-sustaining? Can our future cities digest themselves?

This project is accompanied by a limited edition recipe book titled The Cannibal's Cookbook: Mining Myths of Cyclopean Constructions. For further information or to purchase, click the link above.


year: 2017
material: Recycled Concrete Rubble and Stone
principal: Brandon Clifford & Wes McGeein collaboration: Jim Durham - Quarra Stone
mural and book design: Johanna Lobdell
illustration: Joshua Longo
structural: Caitlin Mueller
research team: James Addison \ Daniel Marshall \ Mackenzie Muhonen fabrication leads: Eric Kudrna \ Alex Marshall \ Ali Seyedahmadian \ Brian Smith
fabrication team: Ryan Askew \ Eddie Banderas \ Ramsey Bartlett \ Frank Haufe \ Jesse Kauppila
acknowledgements: This research is funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with support from the MIT Sloan Latin America Office, the MIT HASS Fund, and the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation. The prototype is designed by Matter Design and realized by Quarra Stone Company. 
awards: A|N Best of Design Award Winner, New Materials (2018)