Monday, November 23, 2009

Foam Big, Glass Heavy

For the last few weeks I've been working for UFACTO on an exceptionally large project. So large that it is being built in a workshop about two hours outside of Paris at Poly 2000, a studio that specializes in large, functional fiberglass structures like propellers for the Paris region water treatment facilities, 30+ foot boat hulls, and apparently the odd submarine.

The piece is by Francois Roche, a Paris-based architect, and can best be described as a branchy, apartment-sized, fiberglass asteroid-cave. It is made of polystyrene foam carved mostly by a CNC and by hand in some functionally sensitive zones, wrapped in fiberglass roving and laminated with a special polyester resin that won't dissolve polystyrene foam. It will be painted a glossy white after all the required sanding is done; then it will be shipped in a few containers to Japan where it will stay in sculpture garden. David Toppani carved a slightly smaller one by hand a few years ago for an exibition in France. Quite impressive considering the forms are computer-generated, and quite specific despite the random feel of the form. The above photo is of one of about 17 blocks that fit together to form the final elongated cave which is about the size of a two or three bedroom boxcar apartment with 18 foot ceilings. It will be equipped with a large, flat-screen monitor inside, embedded in a stalactite, and a LED enhanced skylight.

The yellowish color is the filler that gets sprayed over the fiberglass to fill in the fibrous texture before painting. The splotchy green is the fiberglass before the filler is applied. Not very attractive colors at this stage, especially considering the mucousy shape of the thing.   I think the white will improve the overall look of it in the end, but I will probably still think it is not totally my kind of thing. However, I remain thoroughly impressed with the scale and extremity of the design.

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