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Visitor’s Guide to:

PLASTIC FANTASTIC Self-assembling systems and migrating architectures


Visitor’s Guide to Plastic Fantastic

“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.” -Franz Kafka

UNIVESITY COLLEGE LONDON Bartlett School of Architecture M.Arch Architectural Design - AVATAR Nicolas Rodriguez K. e. nicolas.rodriguez.09@ucl.ac.uk b. nicolasrk.blogspot.com t. Rachel Armstrong & Simon Herron June 2010


Introduction

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Self-assembling systems

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The scale problem

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History

The experiment

Geography

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The North Pacific Ocean

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The Gyre

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The Patch

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Mapping as a means of appropriation

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Economy A Plastic Rush

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The mines

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The mining colonies

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References

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index

Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures


Visitor’s Guide to Plastic Fantastic

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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

introduction “Self-assembly is the autonomous organization of components into patterns or structures without human intervention. Self-assembling processes are common throughout nature and technology. They involve components from the molecular (crystals) to the planetary (weather systems) scale and many different kinds of interactions. The concept of self-assembly is used increasingly in many disciplines, with a different flavor and emphasis in each.” (Whitesides, et al. 2002 p.2418)

As new self-assembling protocell technologies are used to trap and bind suspended plastics in the oceans mainly in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, tighter regulations on CO2 emissions force plastic manufacturers to eventually cease production and focus on collecting and recycling used plastics. This creates an economic stimulus by which plastic becomes a scarce and valuable material. The islands generated by the plastic binding in The Patch turn into ‘plastic mining’ settlements, a new floating city-state or micro-nation, that becomes the world’s main raw plastic supplier. Plastic Fantastic is a speculative architectural construct that is born from the discarded materials of the rest of the world. A conceptual ecology where properties become metaphorical and reality is marginal, that aims to create a stimulus for discourse and discussion.

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history

Self-assembling Systems

There are a number of reasons for which self-assembly has generated such interest and although definitions of the term vary immensely and the subject has not been formalized, resulting in it being sometimes overused and distorted, we are undeniably intrigued by the spontaneous appearance of order from disorder. As living cells selfassemble, the understanding of life and its basic building blocks would require the understanding of self-assembly processes. Also, it has been considered fundamental in the development of nanotechnology and the fabrication of nano-structures (Whitesides, et al. 2002). Biological systems as well as a variety of inorganic physical systems exhibit self-assembling or self-ordering behavior and involve components from the molecular (crystallization) to the planetary scale (solar systems and weather patterns). Drawing on these systems for inspiration, scientists and professionals from numerous disciplines like chemistry, biology, engineering, and mathematics, have begun to investigate the self-assembly phenomenon in hopes of learning to design and control the behavior of these systems. Arriving to the topic of selfassembly was the result of studying and speculating on various natural mineralization processes as a starting point, which included fossilization and crystallization. The crystallization process generated special interest because of it’s ubiquitous presence in nature at such immensely different time scales and conditions: from stalactites and stalagmite that are formed at geological time scale to the formation of snow flakes. Quartz, diamonds and ice are examples of crystallization. The process of crystallization involves two major events: nucleation and crystal growth. During the nucleation stage the solute molecules dissolved in the solvent gather together

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forming clusters, if thess newly formed clusters are not stable their bonds are too weak and they end up dissolving again in the solution. However, if, and when, those clusters reach the necessary size, called critical radius, they become stable nuclei and will not re-dissolve. The possibility and periodicity of the clusters reaching the critical radius and becoming stable nuclei, depends largely on the environmental conditions of the solution, e.g., temperature, saturation levels, etc. It is during the nucleation stage that the crystal atoms organize themselves in a periodic manner that defines the crystal structure. This term refers to the microscopic arrangements of the nuclei, not to the macroscopic shape and size of the


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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

The scale problem and the giant crystals of Naica

As the research and exploration of self–assembling processes within crystallization advanced, it became evident how scale, both in size and time, would be an essential element to investigate in order to develop a bottom-up design approach to an architectural proposal that would use the principles of self-assembling structures as generators of the project and a mechanism to design behaviors and processes within the system. This led to the finding of an extraordinary natural phenomenon: The Giant Crystals of Naica, in Mexico. The Giant Crystals of Naica are located in a series of caves within the Naica Mine, a Lead, Zinc and Silver mine, south of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The caves were discovered by accident in 2000 due to exploration activities in the mine that required the extraction of water through a complex pumping system to achieve mineral extraction. The draining of one of the caves approximately 300 m. deep, exposed giant Selenite crystals in the main chamber with sizes of up to 11 m. in length and 4 m. in diameter, and up to 55 tons in weight. It constitutes a very particular geological system that conditions the mechanism by which the macro-crystals are developed. The macrocrystals were formed under water in a point where the heating of deep thermal waters saturated with sulfides, at a temperature of approximately 52°C by an underground magma chamber located bellow the main chamber, resulted in a mild supersaturation of the solution that, due to the stable conditions of the environment during a prolonged period of time –about 500.000 years- allowed for microscopic crystals to grow to immense sizes (Naica Project, 2009). 5


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crystal, although these are the result of the internal crystal structure. The next stage, crystal growth, is the growth of the structure caused by the regular addition of more stable nuclei. These two processes continue to happen simultaneously while supersaturation in the solution exists, meaning supersaturation is the driving force of crystallization, but one process might be predominant over the other also affecting the size and shape of the crystal. Depending upon the conditions, either nucleation or growth may be predominant over the other, and as a result, crystals with different sizes and shapes are obtained. When the system reaches a solid liquid equilibrium, meaning the supersaturation is exhausted, the crystallization process stops until the operating conditions are reestablished and modify the equilibrium to achieve supersaturation of the solution again. IMG.1 and IMG.2 are part of a series of explorative drawings made to study both crystallization and selfassembly processes. IMG.1 is a

time-based drawing of crystallization. Molecules gather into clusters, some of them dissolving back into the solution and some reaching the critical radius needed to form stable nuclei that in turn attract more molecules generating crystal growth; the process follows the time/energy curve that is usually followed by this mineralization process. The drawing functions as a comparative device by overlaying the time frames of crystal formation both for man made salt crystals grown during a period of about a week (144 hours) and the giant gypsum crystals found in the Naica caves that took over 500,000 years. (National Geographic, 2010) The second drawing [IMG.2] is an exploration that focuses exclusively on the self-assembly process of particles within crystallization. The drawing shows how a disordered system of particles spontaneously starts to organize itself and after going through a phase change becomes an ordered structure which more clusters keep being attracted to with a coordinated periodicity and hierarchy.

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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

Previous page_IMG.1:Time based drawing showing how molecules gather into clusters generating crystal growth. Left_IMG.2: Drawing showing how a disordered system of particles spontaneously starts to organize itself and after going through a phase change becomes an ordered. 9


history

The Experiment

Since self-assembly is a phenomenon that is mostly studied and observed on the micro and nano scales, and the interest of this project is to ‘blow it up’ to an architectural scale, it was necessary to investigate the possibility of experimenting with selforganizing structures at a scale that would enable the observation of the behavior of such structures without the need of expensive and complex laboratory equipment. To achieve this an experimental platform was constructed that would allow for study of the basic aspects, conditions and behaviors of a self-organizing system. The Model consisted of square tiles made of balsa wood of different densities and of varying sizes (from 5 mm. x 5 mm. to 20 mm. x 20 mm.) floating on the surface of water contained in a small tank -since the components in the structure need to be mobile, the self-assembly process usually takes place in fluid environments (Whitesides, et al. 2002)- using capillary interaction and magnetic fields as the binding forces between the particles. An actuator is needed to keep the system energy from dissipating and the tiles moving; this is achieved simply by shaking the water tank to induce turbulence on the water surface and thus provide randomness. The use of magnets provided a very easy way of understanding self assembling patterns and aggregation sequences with the magnet’s magnetic fields acting as binding forces; in the case of capillary interaction, it was surface tension that gave the particles the attraction forces and it became a

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more challenging and interesting method since it does not require a third element (the magnet) but only the interface between the particle and it’s environment. Surface tension is a property of the surface of a liquid. Since the molecules at the surface don’t have other like molecules on ‘all sides’ of them, the cohesive forces that hold them together to the molecules associated with the surface are stronger. This forms a surface ‘film’ which makes it more difficult to move an object through the surface than to move it when it is completely submersed; the deformation of the liquid surface (which is supposed to be flat) is the origin of lateral capillary forces. This forces cause the attraction of two similar particles floating on a liquid’s surface (like cheerios floating in a bowl of milk). In general two types of capillary forces can be identified: lateral flotation forces and lateral immersion forces. The former refers to particles that are freely floating over the


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surface of liquid where the attraction of the particles appears because of the deformation of the liquid surface originated in the particle’s weight. The latter refers to the attraction between particles that are partially immersed in the liquid (the cheerio) where the deformation of the liquid surface is related to the wetting properties of the particle surface, i.e. the position of the contact line and the contact angle (Nave, 2005). It was clear from previous research that environmental conditions play a key role in the process of self assembly, so as a part of the experimentation process, during the experiments not only different sizes and densities of particles (wooden tiles of different sizes and types of wood) were consistently combined, but also variations in the composition of the environment in which they were flowing were introduced at different stages. Mixing into the water different additives, altering the interface chemistry and inducing changes the environment’s temperature would allow an observation of how changes in the environment alter aggregation patterns and sequences and overall the self-assembly process. The additives and alterations made to the experiments were the following: Sodium bicarbonate and olive oil: Protocells in their simplest form are basically oil droplets in a water based medium that generate their movement and reactions mainly from their oil-water interface. Based on this, in this trial the tiles were covered with olive oil while sodium bicarbonate in

different concentrations was added to the water with the intention of increasing the alkaline content of the water to induce a reaction in the tile’s oil-water interface. Temperature: The surface tension of a liquid varies depending on its temperature, it is reduced when the liquid’s temperature is increased and reversely it increases as the liquid gets colder. For example, hot water functions as a better cleaning agent than cold water because it’s reduced surface tension allows it to become a better wetting agent and to get into pores; soaps and detergents further reduce surface tension (Nave, 2005). In the experiment various temperature trials were made in an attempt to let the particles move more freely through the medium and to increase the attractive forces between them. Magnetic forces: 6 pairs of tiles equipped with magnets were used in this trial. 6 of them were mounted with the magnets pointing upwards and the remaining 6 with the magnets pointing downwards. The two groups were given a colour each, red and black, to be able to quickly distinguish between the tiles carrying upward oriented magnets and the ones that had downward oriented magnets fitted to them. Effervescent salts: The addition of effervescent salts to the water significantly reduced the need for an external actuator and, once the particles formed clusters that reached equilibrium, it made the particles disassemble and eventually assemble again but with a different pattern and aggregation sequence.

Previous Page_IMG.3: Still images if one of the tests done using the experimental platform. The image corresponds to the Effervescent Salts series of tests.

Right_IMG.4: The image represents the Brownian Motion of one of the tiles in the model achieved by tracking the movement of the tile with intervals of 10 seconds (cyan), 20 seconds (blue) and 30 seconds (red).


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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

Brownian motion is defined as ‘the seemingly random movement of particles supended in a fluid (i.e. a liquid or gas) or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, often called particle theory.’ Brownian Motion curves were generated for each tile in the model by tracking the movement of the particle, pin-pointing it’s possition at different time intervals. 13


geography

The North Pacific Ocean

Right_IMG.5: Waldseemüller’s map drawn in 1506 showing teh American continent dividing the two oceans.

Plastic fantastic is located in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A giant accumulation of man made debris, suspended in the upper water column of the North Pacific Ocean. Roughly located between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N, -in the North Pacific, between Japan and the west coasts of Canada and the U.S.A. and north of the Hawaii Islandsthe exact size of The Patch is unknown as it is uncommon to find concentrations of large elements that are visible from a boat deck and most of it is composed by plastic particles suspended just under the water surface, making it impossible to be registered by aerial or satellite photographs. The size is instead calculated by samplings of the area, although this has proved very “complicated by large spatial and temporal heterogeneity in the amounts of plastic debris and by our limited understanding of the pathways followed by plastic debris and its long-term fate” (Ryan et al. 2009). However, calculations of the size of the Patch range from about two times the size of Texas (about 8 times the size of Britain) to the size of the continental U.S. The existence of The Patch was first mentioned in a 1988 paper published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States and has been brought to mainstream attention by Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Foundation, who came across it coming back from a sail race between Los Angeles and Hawaii (Moore, 2003). The Pacific Ocean did not exist within the human mind before about 1500. Although the Chinese and Japanese were aware of the existence of an immense ocean stretching to the east and in the same way Europeans knew that there was a vast ocean extending to the west, neither knew the extent of it. For those living in eastern Asia “the oceans were the limits of the universe” (Hayes, 2001) and for the Europeans the ocean extended to eastern shores of the Asian continent, it was this idea precisely what led Christopher Columbus to sail west in 1492 in search for a new route to the

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Indies, but America got in the way. The first cartographic representation of the Pacific Ocean along the lines of how we know it today, was done by Martin Waldseemüller in 1506 [IMG.5] and although it has been called an inspired guess it is generally acknowledged as the first mapping of the Pacific Ocean and a remarkably good outline of an unknown sea (Hayes, 2001). A major step was taken in 1529 by Portuguese cartographer Diogo Ribeiro whose breakthrough was to achieve, after two decades of Spanish exploration, a quite


accurate calculation of the width of the Pacific Ocean [IMG.6]. During this two decades of exploration two main events occurred that would change our view of the Pacific Ocean, and the world, forever. The first was the discovery of the Ocean itself, meaning the realization that the new world was, in fact, new, and not the Indies as it was previously thought. The Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa who had settled in Darien, on the east coast of today’s Panama, travelled west in 1513 and crossed the Isthmus of Panama and instead of gold, which was what he was looking for, he found the Ocean, which he named Mar del Sur, Spanish for Southern Sea, since at his arrival point on the

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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

coast, the sea lay to his south. In 1519, Fernando de Magallanes, a Portuguese explorer working for the spanish crown, convinced the king that although there was a contintent blocking the way between Europe and Asia, it was possible to find a crossing that would lead to Balboa’s Mar del Sur and provide a direct route to reach the Indies. In 1515, Magallanes found this way around the southern tip of South America, after a long struggle through the straits that today bears his name, he emerged at a vast and surprisingly calm and peaceful sea, which he named Mar Pacifica - Pacific Sea. Antonio Pigafetta, and Italian nobleman sailing with Magallanes in this voyage wrote (Hayes, 2001):

“Wednesday November 28, 1520 We debouched from that strait engulfing ourselves in the Pacific Sea. We were three months and twenty days without getting any kind of fresh food... we sailed about 4000 leagues... through an open stretch of that Pacific Sea. In truth it was very pacific, for during that time we did not suffer any storm... had not God and his Blessed Mother given us such good weather we would all had died of hunger in that exceedingly vast sea. In truth I believe no such voyage will ever be made again”

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Pigafetta, of course, was wrong. It is a common mistake that in Columbus’s time, sailors and adventurers thought they would sail of the edge of a flat earth. What is true though, is that they were frightened of what they might find in what was termed Terra Icognita (unknown land) and Mare Incognito (unknown sea) during they’re explorations of uncharted territories. Misapprehensions about marine life in those territories go from incorrect assumptions of sizes and behaviors of known species to fantastic 16

portrayals of beasts that ‘might’ exist. Examples of this are IMG.7 and IMG.8 by Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius. Both are excerpts of maps published in 1570 in the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, considered to be the first modern atlas. The first image depicts sea monsters many believed to live in the little known waters surrounding Iceland, and in the second he visualized big voracious whales that attack passing ships as well as sirens waiting to seduce sailors in the Pacific Ocean.


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Above_IMG.6: Diogo Biboiro’s map showing the first accurate calculation os the extent of the Pacific Ocean. Next pages_IMG.7 & 8: Exerpts of maps by Abraham Ortelius depicting sea monsters and sirens in areas of the oceans that were not known. 17


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The Gyre

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The patch is gathered together by the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. In the open ocean the combination of high pressure and low pressure winds cause ocean currents that result in the formation of giant systems of rotating currents or vortexes called Gyres. The currents forming the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre are the North Pacific Current to the north, the California Current to the east, the North Equatorial Current to the south and the Kuroshio Current to the west. The Gyre has an elongated shape stretching east-west, and due to Coriollis effect, it rotates clockwise. There are five major Gyres on earth, North Atlantic Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre, Indian Ocean Gyre, North Pacific Gyre and South Pacific Gyre; together they make up about 40% of the planet’s surface and about 75% of what is considered open ocean. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (the term subtropical indicates that a Gyre is located immediately north of the Earth’s tropical zone) is the biggest of the Gyres expanding over 25 million square kilometers (Dautel 2009), and although traditionally it was thought of as an equivalent to a terrestrial desert in the middle of the ocean -they are traditionally avoided by sailors and

fishermen because they are devoid of wind and marine organisms- this vision has been recently challenged. Not only because of the discovery of before ignored large quantities of nutrient cycling, where temperature variations in deep and surface water currents induce changes in water density causing colder waters rich in nutrients and oxygen to well up to the surface in the centre of the Gyre (Dautel 2009), and of the relative low biomass that allows deeper light penetration permitting photosynthesis to occur at substantial depths; but also because of the importance of the oceans in acting as a sink for CO2 in the atmosphere. Climate change can cause atmospheric variations that in turn would affect the primary productivity of the Gyre; these variations can change the amount of Carbon that is trapped in the surface layers of the ocean waters affecting the planets carbon cycle and atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Next page top_IMG.9: This image shows wind speeds and direction in the Pacific Ocean on August 1, 1999, gathered by NASA’s SeaWinds radar instrument.

Next page bottom_IMG.10: A very well-defined spiral eddy is visible through the haze off the east coast of Japan in this NASA SeaWiFS image.


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North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

IMG.13: Location of the 5 main Gyres and currents that cause them, and the aproximate location of the East Pacific Garbage Patch. 22

South Pacific Subtropical Gyre East Pacific Garbage PAtch


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South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre Indian Ocean Gyre North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre

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geography

The Patch

Faster currents on the outside of the Gyre push floating debris, of which 60%-80% is plastic in one form or another (Muhawi 2009), into the slower swirling centre where it is trapped in a gigantic soup of trash, resulting in the highest known concentrations of plastic particulates in the upper water column, surpassing phytoplankton mass concentrations by up to 5 to 1. (Moore et al, 2001) A quite common misapprehension is that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a ‘floating island of garbage’ and that if you stood on the deck of a boat in the middle of the patch you’ll see nothing but plastic from horizon to horizon and that you would be able to stand and walk on it. The Patch is actually relatively sparse and although you can find pieces of plastic elements big enough to be seen from the deck of a boat, the main concern is what you can’t see and in the quantities in which is present, since it’s such a vast area, the presence of just a few grams of plastic per square meter multiplied by the area covered by the Gyre provides an idea of the proportions of the Patch. Holly Bamford (quoted by McLendon, 2010), director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debri Program, refers to the convergence zone as a “trash superhighway” that ferries plastic rubbish along the elongated, east-west corridor that links two spinning eddies known as the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Western Garbage Patch. The whole system collectively makes up

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the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic enters the oceans in many forms, aside from discarding of materials from ships (nets, lines, floats, etc.) “virtually every kind of plastic packaging and plastic object used on land may be discarded or lost to the sea.” (Day, 1988) Although some plastics would eventually sink because they are denser than sea water, a large quantity will be buoyant enough to float. At sea, unlike materials that biodegrade, plastics undergo a mechanical fragmentation called photo-degradation (Moore 2003), by which they progressively break down into smaller pieces, while remaining a polymer. For descriptive purposes, plastic particles found in the ocean can be generally classified in two major groups: raw materials and manufactured products (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1991). Raw plastic materials or plastic pellets, are small cylindrical disks that because of their size are the most commonly neglected constituent of marine debris. Polyethylene and Polypropylene pellets are the most


common kind of raw plastic pellets found in marine environments, from which larger moulded plastic objects are made. Pellets generally ranging in size from 1 to 5mm in diameter are predominantly colourless, white or amber, although black, green, red, blue, and other colours are also produced. In the second group, manufactured products, are the more visible

and recognizable plastic debris in several shapes and various chemical configurations. These items, manufactured from the raw plastic pellets, are mostly containers and packaging materials, toys, fishing nets and other gear and disposable dish-ware and are found in the oceans both intact or broken down into fragments by photo-degradation and other mechanical means.

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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

IMG.14: Sample taken from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Michael Moore from the Algalita Foundation. Plastic pellets concentration surpasses plankton concentration by mass by up to 5 to 1. 25


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Visitor’s Guide to Plastic Fantastic

Mapping as a means of appropriation

To understand such a complex site that has been the cause of much controversy and speculation but that has yet to be clearly defined and fully understood, the first tactic was to map the forces and conditions that define it: winds, oceanic currents, and boat routes, as well as concentration and location of plastics within it, are all elements and conditions that systematically affect and alter the site. Thinking of the site as an almost mythical region, uncharted territory, a territory that calls to be discovered, conquered, colonized; mapping becomes a tool that allows achieving spatial stability and that involves not only the archiving of the information gathered but also serves as a record and a projection of the imagined. Denis Cosgrove (2002) affirms that the work done by cartographers Edme-François Jomard and Alexander Von Humboldt brings to our attention “the role that maps had played on Europe’s progressive ‘discovery’ of the world and it’s organization into varied spaces’ (p.7). Mapping, again, serves as a tool for the organization and inclusion of The Patch -an area by many thought to be ‘a desert in the middle of the ocean’- into the ‘known world’, and turns it into an open stage for research and critical speculation where the role of the architect is to use mapping techniques not just to register the environment but to act on it. These mapping exercises and explorations involve four features that have been consistent in the historical practice of mapping: scale, framing, selection and coding, (Cosgrove, 2002) that would prove to be key elements to determine and define the framework under which the observational stage of the project becomes propositional. The main mapping subjects have been divided into 2 main groups: 1.The Patch: The elements that cause, affect and define the Patch, such as currents, winds and water pressures as well location and

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displacements of The Patch caused by these forces. This exercise attempts to organize and understand the huge spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the location, shape and composition of the patch. IMG.13 Is an exploration of the elements and forces that have an impact on the site and therefore define and determine its behaviors and function. The drawing is a scaling and framing instrument, by which a separation of inside from outside is done. It is an attempt to the territorialization of the site, setting the boundaries of the myth in a new context. “That of a place that is of


earth but not from earth” (Cosgrove, 2002 p.20) The use actual latitude and longitude lines of the earth provides scale and locates the site. The representation of the Ekman Spiral and boat routes tracked from old and modern nautical charts, generates an understanding of the forces that create and affect The Patch. IMG.14 Is a time based survey of the movement of the particles that conform the Patch, by tracking the movement of particles from the moment they are dumped in the Ocean in the coast of California to their arrival to the centre of the Gyre, forming The Patch, a voyage that takes about 5 or 6 years. This drawing made evident how the site is at the same time the boundary and the centre of itself. Elongating that spiral-like trajectory that is followed by the trash particles, achieves a linear chronological survey of the position of the tracked particles in reference to the 35°N latitude, during that 5 to 6 year period of time. 2.The system: Mapping the forces that affect the tiles in the experimental self-assembling model allowed not only to understand how these forces affect the system but also to establish a common language to guide the deployment of the system in the site, and generate a platform for the creation of Plastic Fantastic as ‘the new world’. Two drawings are the result of mapping the forces that have an incidence in the way the particles in the model self-assemble. They are

analytical instruments to discover how these forces act and how to achieve the best possible way of utilizing them for the most effective performance of the system both in assembly speed and efficiency. IMG.15 is a study on the direct influence that the morphology of particles has in the self-assembly process. It is based on observations of the model and on research of previous studies done on the subject like Shuhei Miyashita’s ‘The Influence of Shape in Self-assembly’ (2009). The drawing depicts the amount of energy required by different shapes of tiles (square and round) to overcome a potential barrier and change their relative positions and the potential mechanisms of these shapes (rotate and slide) to complete that change and achieve an organized cluster. It is a tracking device used to trace the process of the experiments, the problems found during the tests and to register the solutions and conclusions. The drawing shows how most efficient particle is actually a combination of both shapes: square with round corners. IMG.15 is part of a series of drawings made to study and understand the magnetic shielding effect, the effect where the magnetic force of one magnet and the attraction it has on a particle is completely canceled by another magnet, a problem continually found to occur with square tiles since they are less flexible when it comes to change their relative position (Miyashita et al. 2009).

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Left_IMG.13: Drawing used as a scaling and framing instrument. It maps the forces acting on, altering and defining the site

Page 30_IMG.15: This drawing analizes the in fluence of shape in self-assembly by overlapping the amount of energy required by different shapes of tiles to overcome a potential barrier and change their relative positions and the potential mechanisms of these shapes to complete that change and achieve an organized cluster.

Below_IMG.14: Time based survey of the movement of the particles that conform The Patch, from the moment they are dumped in the Ocean in the coast of California to their arrival to the centre of the Gyre, a process that takes 5 to 6 years.

Page 32_IMG.16: Part of a series of drawings made to study and understand the magnetic shielding effect, the effect where the magnetic force of one magnet and the attraction it has on a particle is effectively canceled by another magnet.

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economy

A Plastic Rush

A gold rush is generally defined as a period of feverish migration into an area where a dramatic discovery of gold has been made. The significance of gold rushes and the influence that they’ve had in the development of different countries as well as in the global economy however, has widened the interpretation of the term and is now widely applied to denote a capitalist economic venture in which there is a common goal of a new and apparently highly lucrative market often precipitated by an advance in technology. The most well known ‘Gold Rush’ is arguably the California Gold Rush in the United States that started in 1849 when “James Marshall noticed a glimmer in the bottom of a millrace, and changed the history of the world” (McCone, Orsi, 1999). This phenomenon, that has come to epitomize the concept of the Gold Rush and since its effects and repercussions are foundational not only in the state of California, even to this day, but the United States and the whole world. The concept of gold rush, as before stated, has been generalized to signify any economic activity that involves a pursuit of an apparently very lucrative market and is habitually triggered by an advance in technology. In the case of Plastic Fantastic, what creates the economic stimulus for a ‘plastic rush’ has two ingredients: the use of new technologies, the self-assembling protocell system, devised to trap and bind the plastics from the Great Pacific

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Garbage Patch; and the increasingly tight regulatory system around the world intended to curb CO2 emissions from various industries, including the plastic manufacturing industry. Collecting used plastic and separating the different types of plastic are arguably the two steps that have proven most difficult in the recycling process; because of the enormous organizational effort required in the case of collecting the plastic waste from industries, households, etc., and because of the technological shortcomings in the case of the separation process. Also both stages require tremendous investment of capital. This provides the market by which the ‘plastic rush’ is triggered and is the beggining of the transformation of Plastic Fantastic: what was an effort to clean the oceans from the trash and discarded materials from around the world turns into a highly profitable economc activity.


Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

economy

The Mines

The archetypal mining settlement during the California Gold Rush, was defined and structured by the basic social unit developed during the time, formed by those Argonauts (a name derived from those that followed Jason in search of the Golden Fleece in classical mythology) determined enough to go to California in search of gold leaving their families and communities behind. They would usually do so as part of a ‘company’ with their friends and neighbours. The company was, effectively a replica of their own local communities, as not only a matter of economical and domestic convenience, but also as a support network that offered certain sense of security and offer assistance in situations of hardship, sickness and even death (Rohrbough, 2000). The mining companies in which miners organized themselves, had their origin as a working unit, each one with specific tasks including digging ,shoveling, transporting and washing the material. Similarly, the mine is the basic organizational unit in Plastic Fantastic, where the processes of extracting the plastic from The Patch and separating the different types of plastic to be supplied to the plastic manufacturers around the world.

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economy

Visitor’s Guide to Plastic Fantastic

The process is based on the use of self assembling protocell technologies. Experiments done by Martin Hanczyc and his team in the Southern University of Denmark have shown protocells capable of locomotion through both phototaxis (the movement of a mobile particle in response to light) and chemotaxis (the movement of a motile organism or particle in response to the increasing or decreasing concentration of a determined substance). Utilizing this two characteristics of protocells, the process is initiated when the protocells are released through the mine’s underwater tentacles at a depth of between 150 to 200 mts. since this is the maximum depth light penetrates the ocean waters.[IMG] Through phototaxis the protocells ascend moving towards the surface searching for light. During this process the organic protocells act as chemical agents to unlink and re-link the carbon chains in the plastics, leading to agglutination of the plastic pellets suspended in the upper water column and ‘pushing’ them to the surface. Once in the surface the continuos

agglutination effect that protocells have on the plastic particles, leads to them binding together forming bigger ‘clusters’ of plastics attached to one another. It is this process of bonding and concentration of the suspended plastic at the surface that creates a new strata with high plastic concentrations: the plastic mines. Since different types of plastic cannot be recycled together, separation of mixed plastics encounters many problems and represents one of the most problematic processes in the management system of plastic waste -for example, in the case of the separation of PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate), even a small concentration of PVC in a melt of PET can substantially decrease the quality of the whole batch (Dodbiba and Fujita, 2004). The second part of the process then, begins at the surface, where the plastic is collected and transported to the ‘separating plant’, where the different types of plastic are separated and sorted to be sold to plastic manufacturers.

Previous page_IMG.17: Three men in a typical gold mine during the California Gold Rush Source: Jackson, William Henry, photographer. circa 1872. Right_IMG.18: Sketch drawing of the basic Plastic Fantastic plastic mine. The underwater tentacless release sef-assembling protocells at a depth of 150200 mts. The plastic aglutination causes enough concentration to create the mine. 36


Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

economy 37


Visitor’s Guide to Plastic Fantastic

economy

The Mining Colonies

The mines form not only the basic work unit but also the main social unit, forming mining settlements or colonies. These mining colonies are mirrored from the mining camps found during the California Gold Rush where some of them where as big as what could be considered a village, and some other were not more than just crossroads with just a single road in the middle that would accommodate a few stores vary in size in proportion to the number of mines they serve. The mining colonies that form Plastic Fantastic, are a transient urban system, given the everchanging physical characteristics of the Garbage Patch. They constitute a dynamic set of relationships between themselves and generate an elastic ‘urban’ morphology that is flexible and adapts with ease to the unpredictable

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complexions of its environment. The mining colonies in Plastic Fantastic function like the components in all self-assembling systems, responding to the forces that the environment exerts on them, assembling and disassembling depending on the surrounding conditions that affect them.


Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

economy

Top_IMG.19: Mining settlements around Gabriel’s Gully mine during the height of the gold rush in 1862. Below_IMG.20: This sketch drawing is a cross section that shows a typical mining colony in Plastic Fantastic, it is also a time based analysis showing the process by which agglutination of plastics creates the new strata and the mining fields.

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references

Visitor’s Guide to Plastic Fantastic

Cosgrove, Dennis (ed) (2002) Mappings. London, Reaktion Books. Day, Robert H. et al (1998) Quantitative distribution and characteristics of neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. Final Report to US Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service, Auke Bay Laboratory. pp. 247–266 Available from http://swfsc.noaa.gov/publications/TM/SWFSC/NOAATM-NMFS-SWFSC-154_P247.PDF Dautel, Susan (2009) Transoceanic trash: International and United States strategies for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal, 3 p. 181-208 Dodbiba, G and Fujita, T (2004) Progress in separating plastic materials for recycling. Physical Separation in Science and Engineering, 13 (3–4) 165–182 Available at: downloads.hindawi.com/journals/psse/2004/594923.pdf Hayes, Derek and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (2001) Historic Atlas of the North PAcific Ocean. London, British Museum Press. McLendon, Russel (2010) What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch? [Online] Available from: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-unclesam/stories/what-is-the-great-pacific-ocean-garbage-patch [accessed June 2010] Miyashita, Shuhei et al. (2009). The influence of shape on parallel selfassembly, Entropy [Online] 11(4) 643-666. Available from http://www.mdpi. com/1099-4300/11/4/643/ [accessed 22nd November 2009] Moore, Charles et al. (2001) A comparison of plastic and plankton in the North Pacific Gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 42 (12) 1297-1300. Available at: http:// www.alguita.com/research_papers.html Moore, Charles (2003). Across the Pacific Ocean, plastics, plastics everywhere, Natural History. 112(9). Available from http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/ Moore-Trashed-PacificNov03.htm [accessed February 2010] Muhawi, Daniela (2009) Algalita - Shrinking The World‘s Largest Garbage Patch [Online] Available from: www.ecoworld.com/blog/editor/muhawi/2009/01/29/ algalita-shrinking-the-worlds-largest-garbage-patch [accessed May 2010]

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Self-assembling Systems and Migrating Architectures

National Geographic (2010) Giant Crystal Cave [Online] Available at: http:// channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/giant-crystal-cave-3569/Photos#tabfacts Nave, Rod (2005) Surface Tension [Online] Available from: http://hyperphysics. phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/surten.html [accessed December 2009]

references

Naica Project (2009) Naica Project, Crystal’s Formation [Online] Available at: http://www.naica.com.mx/english/internas/interna2_2.htm

Rohrbough, Malcom (2002) No boy’s PLay: Migration and settlement in early Gold Rush California. In: Starr, Kevin, Orsi, Richard (eds) Routed in barbarous soil: People, culture and community in Gold Rush California. London, University of California Press. p.25-43 Ryan, Peter G. et al. (2009) Monitoring the abundance of plastic debris in the marine environment - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 364 (1526) 1999-2012 Available from: http://rstb. royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/1999.abstract U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Curlee,T.R.; Das, S. (1991) Plastic Wastes - Management, Control, Recycling and Disposal. William Andrew Publishing/Noyes. Available from: http://knovel.com.libproxy.ucl.ac.uk/web/ portal/browse/display?_EXT_KNOVEL_DISPLAY_bookid=319&VerticalID=0 Whitesides, George M. et al. (2002) Self-assembly at all scales, Science [Online]. 295 2418. Available from http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/users/08/ bblonder/phys120/docs/whitesides.pdf [accessed November 2009]

Other Bibliography: Diamond, Jared (2005) Guns, germs and steel. London, Vintage. Hohn, Donovan (2007) Moby Duck: Or, the synthetic wilderness of childhood, Harper’s Magazine. January 2007. Available from http://www.harpers.org/ archive/2007/01/0081345 [accessed March 2010] Jackowski, N. and de Ostos, Ricardo (NaJa & deOstos) (2008) Ambiguous Spaces. New York, Princeton Architectural Press. Monmonier, Mark (1991) How to lie with maps. Chicago, The university of Chicago Press Strauss, Erwin (1999) How to start your own country. Boulder CO., Paladin Press.

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M.Arch 09-10 Final report - The Bartlett  

Final project report submitted by Nicolas Rodriguez for the M.Arch - AVATAR program at The Bartlett School of Architecture, University Colle...

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