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.


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