Los Angeles, CA 2010

Paper Pulp Studies

Published on www.suckerpunchdaily.com [October 14, 2010]

For years, molded paper pulp has been used to make strong and intricate shapes in the packaging industry and has received little attention in architecture until now. In association with Ball-Nogues Studio, students at UCLA developed a process for the sprayed application of paper pulp (rough material) onto an articulated form work (smooth surface) to create a new aesthetic in tactile wall systems.

The objective to was create a freestanding and thin surface that would allow the exploration of double sided cosmetic articulation, with moments of prescribed and accidental transposition between one side and the other; to form a dialogue between the rough and the smooth; the vibrant and the mute; the loose and the precise.

Roughness and Designable Imperfection:
Color, as well as the lack of color, were used to substantiate the formal and tactile relation between sides. The rough and voluptuous side was dyed fuchsia red to accentuate material vibrancy while the smooth side was left a greyish-paper white. During the process of application, the red color would bleed through the first two coats which were left undyed. Transposition would occur at points where the surface geometry dictated settling and sliding within the paper pulp, which created a variation in thickness. Ostensibly, bleeding would occur where the surface was the thinnest. This technique was discovered in earlier studies material studies but was not dismissed as accidental or as failure. Rather, the technique became a method and applied deliberately with a certain looseness in its definition. The specific points of intersection were discovered after the paper was dried and lifted from its form.

Smoothness and Precision:
The circular extrusions were detailed in a manner that would allow the fuchsia red to be registered on the white/smooth side as rings within the mute surface deformations. The rings and conical deformations define the aesthetic of the surface and simultaneously create rigidity as a form active structure. Within the form work, compact disks were used to set stretchable fabric into PVC pipes and concrete forming tubes. The tubes were attached to an underlying CNC-routed plywood frame assembled with specific angles of rotation on the x and y axis. The angle of rotation for each tube was controlled independently but inflected coherently within the overall composition of the design.

The installation was mobile as it was light and freestanding, and was displayed in two locations. In one location, it was placed in between the main corridor and double height review space at Perloff Hall to mediate between public circulation and final reviews occurring below. The material and cosmetic sidedness of the installation became an active experiential dialogue between spaces, which created a surreal presence and dynamic visual mediation. The installation was delivered in this location as an atmospheric interruption as well as a view conduit between spaces. The second location was a secondary exploration of the glowing effects of light and shadow at night.

The installation promotes a high level of design control with certain intentionality and precision while simultaneously allowing for tactile roughness and designable imperfections. The design employs digital processes in the creation of a smooth form (inverse mold) which then becomes a theoretical and physical form work for the final product. Theoretically, the installation sought to polarize material qualities through a sided investigation while allowing for imperfection and precision to coexist. Irregularity and looseness are therefore asserted coherently as an aesthetic that is crafted within rigorously defined processes of material fabrication and material parameters.


Wael Sami Batal, Daniel Hesketh, Marco Li, Adrian Yim, Vince Yan, Mike Smith, Brendan Shea

UCLA Instructors/Critics:

Ben Ball, Gaston Nogues, Peter Ebner