ASMbly Lab2 has started this week – a ten day open access workspace bringing together artists, scientists and makers, in central Leeds. I plan to use the time to explore ideas of construction (on a small scale), I began with a series of structures achieved using the process of laying materials over a dome formed in sand. Once the materials have cured the sand is dug away leaving a self supporting structure. As the idea for the process came together I remembered seeing references to domestic architectural structures built in the U.S. using a similar process, pouring cement/ polymer materials over huge domes built of earth and sand. This felt like an interesting and relevant enquiry – exploring the notion of the model while also exploiting’everyday’ materials.
During the opening event at ASMbly I was alerted to the work of the American architect Wallace Neff, in the early 1940’s Neff developed a proposal for building large numbers of houses in a relatively short time. The process involved inflating a half sphere former over a concrete base and then firing a cement and water mix called ‘Gunite’ at high pressure over the surface, a second layer was applied and the building completed in 48 hours. Although it never really took off in the States there was a more receptive environment in West Africa where 1200 units were built in Dakar, Senegal. Neff himself lived out his life in the last habitable Gunite dome in the U.S.