A University project in cooperation with Eternit AG
The company produces its construction parts in high-strength fiber cement with its typical features such as high bending tensile strength, fire resistance, light weight, and high durability. Mixed with natural asbestos fiber before, all of the production was changed over to organic synthetic fiber after the prohibition of asbestos in 1980. Hence we are talking about a eco-friendly production method.
A visit to the factory in Heidelberg was arranged to inform about the process technology and map possible ways for creative considerations. Thereby lies the actual challenge in the limitations of technological possibilities, that requires uncomplicated thinking and approach and puts the ideas on a simple but reflective basis without losing the banality of the simple.
Can we talk about a “poetry of the material” in the context of a rather technical raw material?
To what extent can the anonymous industrial sheet material be transformed into three-dimensional objects by manual deformation and by an early intervention into an allowed industrial production process including all of its restrictions? To name a few questions that this student project had to face.
To apply the material of the distinctive Eternitwave, the synonym for a suitable roof and facing tile differently, was the challenge and moving spirit for all the participants.
The substance with its already mentioned features and brash industrial charm seemed suited for creating objects for the outer area and the public space. Just by shaping the plain sheet in its moist and hot state, sawing out defined shapes pattern-like and pressing it over respective tool forms.
The precise construction of molds in university workshops, a manual processing technology, the providing of a factory workshop which has been emptied just for this university experiment and the support of helpful qualified employees on-site formed ideal pre-conditions for a goal-oriented “work in process” which was going to be full of surprises.
In the perception between idea, transformation and feasibility, an inspiring dynamic in the communication and technical realization within limits came to be in this limited available period of time.
The industrial material with its very specific characteristics and its bulkiness receives a new vision through manual interference and deformation. It is sort of cut “alienated”, winded over given molds, shifted, and “beaten soft”.
As a tribute to the deceleration, at least in the state of single-unit production, a drying process of several weeks is necessary, until the single parts of fiber cement can be dismantled and the objects can express all of their value.
By using a folding technique, an air-consisting pillow is first enclosed by a platter of eternit and blown up afterwards. Thereby evolves the distinctive shape, which forms a very stable hollow body in the hardened state due to its bulges and folds. This simple technique uses the characteristics of the building material eternit and combines its high stability with a stunning lightness. Because of the little mold constraint of this manufacturing process, each piece of furniture becomes a one of a kind, since each pillow of eternity differs slightly from the others. The copper or brass electroplated steel frames support the light appearance and keep the pillow firmly in its position.
Hole is a furniture set, consisting of a chair, an armchair, a side table and a stool. All the objects are assembled after the same principle: A conical body makes a base, on which a cap is placed. The cap of the chair forms the seat shell. Knowingly its extreme curve should be realized without switching to other materials, just to take soundings on the deformation limit of the eternit. The models for the casting of the seat shells were entirely shaped freehand. Hence results a certain imperfection in shape, which blends well with the general roughness of the material.
With the aid of simple geometric shapes, segments on the basis of the basic measurements of existing cladding panels are created, which adds a further dimension to the conventional eternit panel. Conditioned by the asymmetry of the segments, various textures on the façade can be generated by turning the panels. Both calm and loosening patterns are enabled this way. The depth of the panel measures just 40 millimeters, which means an interesting play of contrasts: Only after high angled incidence of light the graphics of the panels is revealed more clearly, since the sudden shading chances the appearance of the building significantly.
The garden furniture sit/lie can be used in a double function, since it combines two possibilities of staying. On the one hand, the piece of furniture serves as an outdoor chair, on which you can enjoy a nice open air dinner. On the other hand, the chair can be converted into an inviting couch by simple overturning. The exchangeable cushion is easy to demount in order to lighten the changeover between the two functions.
The fence, as an space-parting element, seems in its forming mostly repulsing, which disregards some partial aspects of its function though: The inner part of a fence has the same impression as the outer one, although it is not directed to the intruder, but to the inhabitant. The fencing post “sieben°” designed for the production combines two characteristics in one shape, as it leans towards the outside-standing and away from the inside-standing. Thereby the fence is granted and offensive as well as a defensive moment in order to reveal the architectural ambivalence of the medium.
Tri-pot is a flower pot, which is composed of triangular surfaces. Thanks to its geometrical segment parts, it sets itself apart from established models. The shape of the pot is constructed in a way, that several pots can be arranged together to become a bigger flower pot.
Halbe Wasserleuchte / Halbe Sternenleuchte
The design of both lamps is based on a shape, that forms an imitation of traditional Chinese lanterns. Through the possibility of three-dimensional deformation that lies in the material, the basic idea for a lampshade that is arranged with LEDs came up. The first idea resulted in a lamp that reminds one of a star-littered sky. From this first lamp derived a second, open shade, that shows similarities to a water ladle but instead of transporting water, it scoops light.
Rumor and Straf(f)ulum are the result of our observations in the field of contrasts.
We knew that Eternit is, based on its stiff material properties, typically used as a construction material. The freshly made Eternit proved to be surprisingly weak and somehow sensible. This contrasting behavior became the basis of our experiments
In search of an additive material we focussed on the Eternit-plates as the shaping element. So we brought foam materials such as mattresses into our experimental field, that were meant to bring the contrast to the stiff plates.
Various experiments on combinations of Eternit-plates and foamed material followed. In the course of this process the Eternit plates as shaping elements proved to be less interesting than objects that were created from the foam and its impressions on the plates.
The cured and now final objects reflect the physical pressure that arises due to the enwinding of the foam.
For the stool „Heinz“, the same technique was used that Heinz Isler developed in the 60’s in order to create static qualities. The Swiss engineer produced nearly perfect models of shell structures by hanging wet or in resin saturated cloth on their ends and let them solidify. For the production of the stool made out of moist fiber cement, the shape is cut out of an eternit platter and hung up on four points. These points will later be the stool’s feet. Just gravity forms the plane into a stool. As soon as the cement is dried, the stool can be turned around and put up on its feet. The exact shape of the final object is influenced by both cutting of the eternit platter and the positioning of the future feet. Wooden skids, that let it stand freely or turn it into a rocking chair, complete “Heinz” formally as well as statically.
The „Gartenhütte“ is a shelter for cats and little dogs. Two separate assembly parts are stuck together in order to grant the construction more stability. The top of the shelter can be used by the animal as a sun deck. On cloudy days the internal space provides protection against rain and storm. To clean the animal shelter, both parts are easily dismountable thanks to the connection assembly.