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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Module 7 - an Exhibition by KASA at the Avenues Mall...


The Kuwait Architectural Students Association, or KASA, will be exhibiting at the Avenues Mall from the 4th to the 8th of April, 2010. These events are always worth s visit as, particularly the student work produced by the various 'creative' faculties at KU, have always something interesting and catalytic to offer...
The opening ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 4th, at 7 pm, and is presented under the patronage of Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Using a SensAble Haptic Interface...



I finally managed to download the included short videos of me using a Sensable Phantom haptic interface, which was used in the making of the Finger Run tablets and the Snakeskin tactile interface... The device and the accompanying software allow one to 'feel', and thus control & design, things on the screen through the sense of touch... The video above was filmed a few years back, at our old floating office on the HMS President 1918, docked by to the Blackfriars bridge by the Thames Embankment (opposite the Oxo Tower) in London... The video below shows a screen-shot of how this voxel based software, which allows one to design and manipulate the 'digital-clay' on the screen... Both the above mentioned designs were eventually fabricated through various both subtractive and additive CAM processes...



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Making Mud-Bricks, Omani Style (Ourselves)...


Included are a few posters depicting our own attempts at making mud-bricks. The original posting showing images from our visit to Bahla fort where we learned the process can be accessed by clicking here...

It's all fun, fun, fun under the (very bright and hot) sun, sun, sun...




Monday, March 15, 2010

The 100th Blog Entry...

This is the 100th blog posting on the smArchitecture blog which, based on the intended average of at least one blog entry a week, is still ahead of schedule (the blogs first entry took place in early December, 2008). It's a tough but satisfying itch to write and keep up with both this as well as the Kuwait School blogs, which in unison require more time and effort than initially expected. But, as they also perform the role of catalysts and mediums within which to generate, explore further and clarify various ideas, they have become something which on a personal level have become a necessity to regularly consider and update (I have never bothered to find out or follow how many people actually bother to follow my blogs, and and some level, don't really care)...
Let's see where they stand when the 200 mark is reached...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Making Mud Bricks (Omani Style)...


I'm teaching a class in 'Architectural Conservation & Preservation' in which we've decided to take a slightly skewed take on the topic, more of that later, but to commence this valid subject matter we're going to attempt to build a 1:5 scale space using traditional (Omani) mud-bricks. To allow us to understand what this would actually involve we managed to find and visit (thanks to my industrious and well connected students Ali and Khaled) an actual mud-brick making facility at Bahla Castle, an ongoing restoration project taking place approximately thirty-five kilometers from Nizwa. Apparently the castle's/ fort's restoration has been going on for a few decades by now, which makes it (particularly in the context of the Gulf) a unique and commendable project indeed. During our visit we had the opportunity to inspect the mud-brick making process from start to finish, the stages of which are outlined (in brief) below...

(Please click on the imags to inspect them in more detail)...


Pits adjacent to the site where the clay is initially settled and stored...


The process starts by bringing the clay to the site where it needs to be stored in adjacent clay-pits (as seen above) for at least a month before it can be used. It has to be wetted regularily...


A pile of clay intended for bricks...

Once 'aged'/ settled enough to use, the clay can be adapted to two primary uses - as bricks or as mortar and screed (which seem to be more or less the same). The clay for bricks is thicker (seen above), more viscous, than the clay used as mortar (seen below) which is stored in dug out 'cubicles' also located next to the site.


The clay used for mortar and screed...

The clay used as mortal can seemingly be used as is, whilst the thicker clay intended for bricks needs some post-processing. This involves mixing it with dry straw, done manually by foot (in a somewhat similar fashion to crushing grapes for wine - see image below) as well as shovel, at a roughly 3/4 clay - 1/4 straw ratio (or 1 wheel-barrow of clay, 2 bucket fulls of straw). This mixture is allowed to settle for a day...

Mixing clay, water and straw for the mud-bricks...

Their boots act as evidence of their tramp-led/ing toils...


Delivery of mixed (brick making) goods...

The mixed clay is brought to the brick making site in wheel-barrows, where it is put into molds (see below) and allowed to dry for five days in the shade and two additional days exposed to the sun. The most common brick size is 30 x 15 x 15 altough the option of making them 35 x 15 x 15 or 13 x 10 x 15 also exists... The workers at the Bahla site made on average between 250 - 400 mud-bricks a day...

Making mud bricks...

The mud-brick making process - The inside of the mold is lubricated with a watery coat of clay; the clay is packed into the mold up to its rim and the top surface is flattened and smoothed by hand; the mold is lifted off the brick and the process is repeated...

A few examples of different, both wood and metal, molds used...

The mud-bricks are allowed to dry for five days in the shade, and two additional days exposed to the sun...

Included below are some additional images from the Bahla Castle/ Fort in which restoration the bricks are used.

Regarding our project we eventually plan to take what we learn from making the bricks ourselves and expand on the remit to hopefully also include a updated/ adjacent take on what using such materials and processes could actually entail. This might involve experimenting with alternative binding materials to straw (look at GRC as an example) or, say, apply some lessons from contemporary rammed earth construction (updates will be included as the project progresses)...

Bahla Castle/ Fort...


Watch tower...

Smiling wall...



Above and below - examples of various textures and aggregates used in the various mud-brick walls at Bahla Caste/ Fort...