For more than 20 years, LOT-EK has been at the vanguard of taking the objects of industrial detritus and upcycling them as a basis for creative architecture. Cement mixers, tanker trucks, and, most recognizably, shipping containers are transformed through meticulous design into iconic architectural spaces. UP↑CYCLE is a long-form investigation of their provocative practice in the context of our hyper- productive and hyper-consumptive industrialized society.

While investigating the larger picture of global containerized trade and the entire breadth of LOT-EK’s creative output, the film concentrates on two specific projects: a single-family home in Brooklyn and a 105-unit housing project in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The film will intelligently weave economic, ecological and aesthetic viewpoints together with the dynamism of sparks flying and cranes spinning as decommissioned containers are transformed to realize LOT-EK’s artistic visions. UP↑CYCLE presents a positive, engaged response to our current condition as a counterpoint to fatalist laments or idealized fantasies.




Thomas Piper is the director of UP↑CYCLE.

Thomas Piper is Director of Production for the Checkerboard Film Foundation, and an award-winning non-fiction filmmaker. He has directed, photographed and edited more than 20 films including co-directing and editing Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments, which won the Best Film for Television award at the prestigious International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) in Montreal.

As an independent producer, he recently completed a feature length documentary, Five Seasons, on the acclaimed plantsman and garden designer, Piet Oudolf, responsible for New York’s High Line. Other recent films include Art, Architecture and Innovation: Celebrating the Guggenheim Museum and Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line, both broadcast on PBS and accepted at festivals world-wide. Past subjects have also included the artists Sol Lewitt, Jeff Koons and Kiki Smith, the writer James Salter, the art historian Vincent Scully, the architects Peter Eisenman, Steven Holl, and Thom Mayne, and MacArthur “genius” grant winner, Jeanne Gang.

Five Seasons film poster

Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

2016 ‧ Documentary
Diller Scofidio + Renfro film poster

Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line

2012 ‧ Documentary
Sol Lewitt film poster

Sol LeWitt: Wall Drawings

2010 ‧ Documentary
Ellsworth Kelly Fragments film poster

Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments

2007 ‧ Documentary


Photo of LOT-EK team.

Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano have Masters Degrees in Architecture and Urban Design from the Universita’ di Napoli, Italy (1989). After graduating they completed post-graduate studies at Columbia University, New York (1990-1991) as Visiting Scholars. They founded LOT-EK in Naples, Italy in 1993 and opened up LOT-EK’s New York studio in 1995. Besides heading their professional practice, they also teach at Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture and Planning in Cambridge, MA.

LOT-EK is an award-winning architectural design studio renowned in the architecture/design/art world for its sustainable and innovative approach to construction, materials and space through the upcycling of existing industrial objects and systems. Their work has been exhibited in major museums, including MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Guggenheim and the MAXXI.

LOT-EK's Carroll House

Carroll House

Single family home in Brooklyn, NY
    LOT-EK's Drivelines project


    Largest structure made out of shipping containers
      LOT-EK's Qiyun Mountain

      Qiyun Mountain Camp

      Extreme sports and adventure park in China
        Shipping containers await their use in a LOT-EK project.

        Container Assemblies

        Shipping Containers shot in Napoli Port, Italy


          Sherri Wolf is a long-time educator and currently an English teacher and English Department Head at the Brearley School, where she teaches an elective in South African Literature. She received her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and her BA in English from Yale College. Fascinated by narrative and narrative structure, she has taught film at Hunter College and serves on the Board of the Educational Video Center, which empowers youth by teaching them to tell their own stories through documentary filmmaking. Since the day she met Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano, the founding partners of LOT-EK, in 1997, she has been inspired by their work and creative vision.


          Jorge Fontanez headshot

          Jorge Fontanez

          thomas demonchaux headshot

          Thomas de Monchaux

            Marques Mcclary headshot

            Marques McClary

              SUPPORT OUR WORK

              We have partnered with Aubin Pictures, a 501(c)3 organization, which acts as a fiscal sponsor to our project. All proceeds support UP↑CYCLE.

              Donations are 100% tax deductible.

              Donor and Thank You Credits

              Very special thanks to our donors that have supported UP↑CYCLE.

              Amy Bernstein
              Amy Cappellazzo & Joanne Rosen
              Andrea Rosen
              Beth Rudin DeWoody
              Caryn Wechsler
              Connie Hansen & Russell Peacock
              David de Rothschild
              Elise Jaffe & Jeffrey Brown
              Franco Avella
              Greg Miller
              Joanne Cassullo
              Janina Quint & David Leiber
              Joe Lovett & Jim Cottrell
              Karen Ranucci
              Leonardo Bonanni & Family
              Marc Robbins
              Maurice Russell & Jorge Fontanez
              Pam Jones and Craig Russell
              Sharon Davis
              Virginia Hatley
              William Floyd

              Thank You Credits

              Adam Weinberg
              Beth Rudin DeWoody
              Catherine Gund – Aubin Pictures
              Diego Pompeo – Autorita’ Portuale di Napoli
              Franco Avella – Integrated Industries
              Joe & Kim Carroll
              Jonathan Liebmann – Propertuity


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