finally it's go time! two days after my crit, i finally got my abaca!!

anyhow, i feel the need to clear things up after my crit - in relationship to what i've learned of the context of detroit, specifically of pollution resulting of blight (1950's homes) and the process of building with products unknown to cause harm at the time - i have elected (as an architect) to hold accountability of knowing what is being built. Starting with a material process, i'm capable of knowing what the "ingredients" are in a process, know how much waste is developed through the process, and know what is potentially harmful (fire, water, etc. . .) and address them in any way i can.

my ideology with the suburban sprawl and the economic stress of the city and farm is impossible to solve with architecture. i see my work as a mediation. the potential utilization of leftover farm products as a healthy material for building is a thesis inspired from my personal reasons of my family having cancer and the un-justice of pollution of urban blight plaguing a city in economic distress. i wanted to discuss this in my crit, but it's my fault i didn't make it clear. this is the "why" and the reason/purpose - so beyond the "why," i'm moving into the "how" . . .

consuming material - is not knowing to me. processing and making it 1st hand is knowing and a responsibility i value. it is my interest to see this material and process it to its ultimate potential in regards to design/making.


finally, the art of digital fabrication meets the art of natural processing. it sort of smells like bacon.


a solid wafer.


the recipe. . .


i'm making straw paper. note, i'm in "chop" mode. i've got my sodium carbonate, i'm soaking both the straw fibers and the abaca.


so, i've learned a lot from participating in Detroit's bioneers. i learned how to make a strong rope from milkweed.

i have a book called plant fibers for papermaking and it describes a bunch of plants used for papermaking besides straw. basically, my goal is to make some paper for now, but who knows - it can become a structural paper. we'll see. for now, i'm going to get some indian hemp from a farm. . . or, i think deanne might have some.


test I

so, i had to get rid of the fruit flies in my studio. after a week, i have attempted to release the cast and see what i can find. all i got was, broken pieces, mushy straw, rotten foul smelling straw, and a lot of flies. it was gross. this calls for a new recipe. thinner casts, maybe about 1/2" that will allow it to dry faster, layered to give structure, and the combo of abaca and boiling the straw w/sodim carbonate, so it won't be so starchy. wheat paste was horrible, it stinks, takes a lot of time to dry, and it attracts flies. my hands smell like garbage as i type this.

i'm determined to get this right.



i just briefly stopped by detroit today at the bioneers and had a chance to finally meet greg and vibeke. they are architects/designers of co-lab* in detroit from cranbrook during peter's years. i was happy to find a paper they developed made from sun-flowers, straw, and i think other natural combinations pressed and screened.

on 10.15 i will be at the general lecture hall at wayne state university (BIONEERS). i will be holding an intro of the importance of natural building within the detroit metro area as well as holding workshops with deanne bednar and amber baker.

#150 = the general lecture hall at WSU.

a rendered image of what i might design. . .

learning from detroit and the surrounding areas of blight - i have made a promise to myself to build healthier.

blight in the city

blight out at suburbia's ebb. this is where suburbia will soon take over.

straw. . . i love straw. it is very healthy, economical, easy to work with, and fun to play with. after working at the strawbale studio with deanne bednar this summer - i want to extend my investigations with straw fiber. i feel in tune working with local natural materials. to help strenghten my investigations i decided to take on a fibers elective. it's weird and awkward for me and so far i think the relationship between architecture and fibers is pretty weak, but we'll see what comes of it - i guess it's up to me. for me, at least, aesthetics is not important.

why straw? it is waste from farms. it is used to feed pigs and horses. it is a fast renewable resource replenishing every season versus wood. it is natural. most of all it is very healthy and very economical. on the larger scale of things, the typical farm west of novi, mi is struggling to survive. implementation of this material in building could possibly be another source of income for these farms and perhaps could be a remedy for blight. in theory, blight has happened mainly because of unstable economy that failed to sustain itself. it is my determination and motivation to generate a synthesis between farms and design to form an economy that is sustainable (economically and environmentally) for my own practice and supportive for the farms that sell straw bales.

another source of income that farms can sustain themselves on around here is selling corn for fuel. it can be a cheaper method for providing energy and is a renewable resource as well. this is another story though . . . farmers are always striving for their ideas to be heard when i go around searching for bales and share my interests. i love it. there's nothing better than a fat pig chewing hay and scratching it's ass on the gate while we talk about strategy in making money and saving the world.

anyhow, i finally found some farms out here where i live, not technically, but out west where i live - that sell bales for $1.50 dollars each. i got 4 rye and 5 wheat bales.

i'm currently seeking for oat straw - but i guess oat serves no use to the agriculture economy around here in michigan, at least these parts. i might have to take a trip to battle creek where kellogg is. gotto eat my wheaties. soon i will be testing combinations of wheat/rye, wheat/oat, oat/rye. . . etc. to see what combo makes the perfect recipe for a structural material.

so - to get fibers, i started to (shall i dare say) "chop." "chopping" is such a stupid thing to do - it's trivial. there's no way to rationalize the word "chop" and it's a waste of time in theorizing about "chopping." give it a break bill. if anything, the trailer's not being "chopped" - it's taking up space.

after "chopping". . . i sift. i think i sifted for 16 hrs total and "chopped" 3 bales that provided me with over a 100 gallons of fine natarual straw fibers.

the left over sifted material will go back to the strawbale studio for compost for a permaculture project. nothing is wasted.

so, now what am i supposed to build with so much material? first i have to find the perfect recipe for bonding this natural fiborous material. for now, i will use wheat paste. however, i plan to boil the fibers with sodium carbonate to release its own starches/sugars to bond together through compression. in combination with this, i will utilize abaca pulp to make something like thick paper - OSB. this will give structure to what i want to build.

i think i want to challenge myself and build a dome with this stuff. there's something about a dome that intrigues me. it manifests everything in architecture. structure, form, material, and space are all complex problems that architecture adheres itself to. so i attempted to make hexagons like bucky with a slight taper to each of the faces.

it didn't work. i'm so stupid - i knew this would happen. i couldn't get the form out. so i went to 3d and used their vaccum forming machine. i went to buy plastic at acrylic hustlepiece (really acrylic specialties) and found some recycled 1/16 inch plastic.

and it still got stuck.

anyhow, i haven't released the hex/block yet - it's been about a week and it's still a little soft. wheat paste doesn't cut it. unfortuneately it also attracts a lot of flies. i didn't do layers, this time - i poured it all in at once and it made the fibers too an-isotropic so it just decompressed itself. hence a loosley fexible block. i've got to do it OSB style with abaca and sodium carbonate. i will post if it works or not.

i guess i should say - whenever our shops get going, hopefully soon - my thesis will take on the role of fusing natural building with digital fabrication with fricken' lazers.

oct. 14th - 16th is the BIONEERS.
i will be holding workshops and providing an introduction to deanne's strawbale studio presentation of the importance of natural building within the context of the city of detroit.