Las Lomas Installation

Multi-Use Projex

Our newest studio project is to design a building that houses a garden, wax factory, and a radio station. Combining these things is a difficult challenge, so I decided to create a web to see how these seemingly different programs interact and interconnect. I started brainstorming about each part individually. I came up with different characteristics that either described or pertained to its respective program.  For example, I plan on implementing an aquaponic system in my “garden” element. This system is comprised of fish, plants, water, and requires lots of space, electricity, and sunlight. By characterizing each element, the connectors become easily visible, and start forming concepts or ideas to shape the building. Below is the web I created.

This diagram is simple, but I was now able to see some of my initial questions and problems begin to solve themselves. The radio station will require a few separate rooms to house the equipment and this cluster cant be placed near the aquaponic system because the equipment in the radio station must remain dry. The wax production will also probably create lots of noise which means the radio station cannot be adjacent. It seems like the best layout will be to have separate nodes or have a central community area with the individual programs branching off. I also noticed that both the wax and aquaponic systems need packaging areas to package their goods. This area can be shared by both programs and cut down costs of production. The same situation occurs between the wax facility and the radio station. Both areas will likely need storage for cds, tapes, extra equipment, wax, wicks, etc.

After coming to these conclusions, I began to look into the amount of space required for each program. I created a diagram with several options of spacial programs for each facility. The aquaponic system will most likely be a large room that contains all of the components of the system. But, there is an option of dividing the space into two spaces that house growing beds and fish ponds separately. This may be more efficient if the fish require different climates or conditions than the plants. This may also have the potential to use the fish tanks as architectural elements- possibly even a form of a thermal wall.

The radio station has a little less flexibility. There must be a sound room that is sound proof as well as an area to house the electronic equipment. After visiting a working radio station, I was able to see the complexity of  a station as well as the restrictions that are placed on the station by the government. These restrictions limit big changes in the program, but I will still try to formulate new ways of incorporating the spaces together. The tower that transmits the signal is another element that must be researched further.

The wax factory will probably be the most efficient in a large are with maximum flexibility. This will allow for the customization of the factory or for new designs or products. Another possibility for the wax facility is to have two separate areas for the production and packaging of the product. This would allow for a shared packaging space with the aquaponic system.

These diagrams and my research have sparked my thinking on a concept for the design. So far I have noticed a desire for the community of Los Lomas to have a center that brings the community together. The wax, garden, and radio station also have a need for unification. I think finding ways to unify this program may lead to new insight on ways to bring the community together.

Aquaponics 1.0

Our next project is a team exercise in exploring and designing and aquaponic system. Aquaponics is the combination of Hydoponics and Aquaculture. It is a self sustaining system that uses the waste the fish produce to provide nutrients to the plants, while the plants clean and filter the water for the fish. The only thing that needs to be added to the system is food for the fish.

Aquaponics uses 2% of the water that traditional methods require and also grows produce 2 to 3 times faster than soil farms. The system also uses no fertilizer to produce truly organic crops.

Below is an example of a small aquaponic system as well as plans for a system that we would like to modify to fit our needs.

AquaPonix 1.1

Our system is up and running!  Currently we have 7 fish in the aquarium with a pump circulating water into a grow bed. The fish produce waste in the form of ammonia. The ammonia is broken down into nitrite, and then further into nitrate. The pump is a small aquarium pump with flexible tubing connected to the outflow. The pipe runs the water up into the grow bed that contains two existing plants- mint and oregano, and a newly sprouted lettuce chute. The plants were added a few days ago and look healthy. The water runs through the bed and then drains out of holes cut in the bottom of the bed. This water is cleaned by the plants which soak up the nitrates for food. The water drips right back into the tank and the system repeats itself. The system basically works like this diagram ( without the flood tank). Actual pictures will be posted shortly.

Micro Produx 1.0

The goal of this project is to explore, test and develop a prototype wax form to develop a marketable low cost object. I began by researching a past border project, and analyzing the people that make up the community. I noticed that there was a large population of kids in the community, and that there may be a market for a wax toy. I looked further into traditional Mexican toys: Army Men and Wheeled toys. These toys are also just as ingrained into American culture as Mexican culture. They both seem like a perfect fit to try to create a similar toy out of wax that pushes the definition of an army man and a wheeled toy.

I decided to try to make army men out of wax crayons. This will provide a two part toy that children can use to play with as well as draw with.

Traditionally, army men are made out of plastics in a metal mold. You can see this by the flashing line that wraps around the figure. I researched different methods to cast molds and bought materials to try latex and plaster molds. I want to construct a mold that will produce repeatable and detailed figures out of wax.

My goal is to create a toy that becomes more than just a simple toy. I want to push the envelope of the capabilities and characteristics of wax, and apply those characteristics to toys. As this project progresses, I hope to produce something that the children will enjoy as well as question what is a toy.

Micro Produx 1.1

First, I tried the Latex molds. I bought a few figures to cast with varying levels of detail. Latex is supposed to pick up the maximum amount of detail in the molding process. I applied the Latex in thin layers to create a thin membrane that encases the figure. After each layer, I had to wait about 30 minutes for the latex to completely dry. The process took a total of about 12 hours including drying time.

After making a mold, I found that the figures were very difficult to remove without damaging the latex. Cutting the figures out ruins the form because the remaining pieces become weak. I also tried melting the plastic out, but the latex is very flammable. In the next post,  I will try paster molds.

Micro Produx 1.2

Today I started preparing to make a plaster mold. I began by pressing my figure in clay. The clay serves as a material that can be removed later without sticking to the plaster as it cures. The figure is placed so that half the figure is submerged and half is not. Then, air releases, wax holes, and keys must be placed into the clay. The air releases must be installed to allow air to flow out of the mold as wax is being poured in. If these are not installed, then there will be air pockets in the mold. The keys allow for the two halves of the mold to align correctly when assembling the molds.

After the clay was prepared, I created a form out of foamboard to contain the plaster once it is poured. I chose foamboard because the plaster does not bind to the waxy coating on the outside of the board. I also had to spray the clay and figure with cooking spray to help release the plaster from the mold after curing.

Next, I prepared the plaster and poured the mold. The plaster is in powdered form and needed to be mixed with water.  After pouring, the mold must cure for about 4 hours.

The disassembly of the mold was much more difficult than I expected,and the parts figure inside was partly locked into the mold. The base of the figure was not pressed into the clay enough and became locked into the plaster. I tried to cut the pieces out, but parts were unmovable because they were so deeply embedded.  

To make the other half of the mold, I removed the clay and the keys from the plaster. Then, I coated the cured plaster with Crisco so that the new plaster would not bind with the old plaster. I mixed up some new plaster and poured the second mold.

This half of the mold released a lot better because of the Crisco. The impressions look pretty good and show a lot of detail. I let the mold cure for a few more hours to make sure the plaster was hardened.

I want the wax toys I create to be able to be used as crayons, so to start, I used melted crayons to make my first prototypes. I fit the mold together and wrapped the two halves in rubber bands to secure the mold. Next, I broke two crayons up and melted them in a glass container. Once the wax was liquid, I poured it into the mold. Some wax escaped out of the air releases showing that the air escaped properly.

As I took apart the mold, I felt part of the wax snap break. I will need to figure out a way to strengthen the wax in my next prototypes.

The prototype came out fairly well. The base part snapped and became a discard for the next melt. The detail on the figure is decent, but not as sharp as I would like it. The texture of the plaster leaves a strange finish on the wax that weakens the sharpness of the detail.

The wax toy writes just like a crayon and really doesnt wear as much as I expected. One of my concerns are the figures being to brittle for use as crayons. I will try RTV silicone to make my next mold. It should provide more detail to the wax as well as form a flexible mold that will make removing the figure easier. I also want to play with wax ratios to strengthen the figures.