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An (Im)material Cookbook

Space p11 October 30, 2020 January 14, 2021


Acknowledgements This project was made possible by funding support from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. We would also like to thank the CRLT at the University of Michigan for a timely research grant, AAK Golden Brands for their product donation and Space p11 for their trust and support in making this project possible. Thank you to the Rice School of Architecture for your continued support. To Ana-Maria Leon, Meredith Miller and Catie Newell, I thank you for your curiosity and thoughtful comments along the way! I am grateful for the time and effort you put into solidifying these liquid thoughts into text. To Ana Morcillo-Pallares and Maria Arquero, thank you for keeping me sane during the fabrication of these bricks, for the laughs and for encouraging me to document this work. Wenfei Xu and Eduardo Mediero, thank you for coming to Chicago to celebrate the installation amidst a pandemic and for saving the day. To Carolyn Francis, I thank you for your commitment, leadership and discipline in making this cookbook a reality. To Margaret Tudor, I thank you for taking on the decisions that I hesitate to make and for bringing our cooking show to life. Lastly, but most importantly, I thank you Emily Lancaster, Christy Au and Cynthia Castro for your ideation, trust and enthusiasm and for working alongside me on this journey in thermal knowledge; one that was full of mishaps, detours, and environmental surprises.

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An (Im)material Cookbook


Office e.g. Office for Example (e.g.), is an experimental design practice based in Houston. We are interested in examples of possible architectures. Our work focuses on the interface between architecture, theory and environmentalism. Office (e.g.) is directed by Liz Gรกlvez is a Mexican-American educator and a registered architect. She is a Visiting Critic at the Rice School of Architecture.

Project Team Liz Gรกlvez, Principal Christy Au Cynthia Castro Carolyn Francis Emily Lancaster Margaret Tudor

Materials Surrounding air, mechanically heated air, non-burning soy wax, river gravel, lavender essential oil, aquamarine dye chunks, plastic tarp, shipping tape.

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An (Im)material Cookbook


Contents 5 (Im)material Matters 11 Each Instant, a New Space, Catie Newell 15 Material Samples 23 Fieldnotes, or An Environmental Disaster 27 How to Bake 10 Bricks 35 Fieldnotes, of Recipes and Air 39 Homemade Brick Recipe 43 Entropy 2020, Meredith Miller 49 Building as Domestic Labor, Ana-Maria Leon 55 Dining with the Wolf, Space p11

Left, ingredients for a batch of 10 bricks: soywax, gravel aggregate, essential fragrance oil, dye chunks.

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Left, an early material sample (#013.1). Binding failed where the density of the stones was increasingly dense. Additionally, the dirt found on the unwashed gravel decreased binding between the wax and gravel aggregate, creating a raw edge condition as defined by the conditions of the materials.

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An (Im)material Cookbook


(Im)material Matters1 Liz Gálvez

I might begin by describing an (Im)material Space thus: An ephemeral space. 1 The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines ‘immaterial’ as ‘not consisting of matter.’ The term ‘(Im)material’ capitalizes on the potential relationship between material and seemingly immaterial matters, all the while acknowledging that immaterial matters, such as air, consist of material with immaterial qualities.

445 soy-wax and aggregate bricks. 450 lbs. of soy-wax. 1615 lbs. of gravel aggregate. 2 oz of aquamarine dye 16 oz of lavender fragrance oil 648 square feet of a 2 mil. thick plastic drop cloth. Total weigh of sculpture: 2065 lbs.

2 See the project description for the New York Earth Room and other works by Water de Maria. “The New York Earth Room.” Dia Art Foundation, accessed 27 October 2020, https:// www.diaart.org/visit/ visit-our-locations-sites/ walter-de-maria-thenew-york-earth-roomnew-york-united-states.

On the one hand, a quantitative 2 rather than formal account of matter is opportune in describing an ephemeral or phasechanging sculpture. And yet, the notation leaves much to be desired in describing the phase-change, oozy nature of the material. Should we think of wax as solid or liquid? In gallons or in pounds? Additionally, how do we begin to account for the metrics of energic entanglements? (I consumed 16 gallons of gasoline matter in transporting these matters 250 miles from Ann Arbor to Chicago).

(Im)material Matters

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This project has had many lives. First, there was an inquiry into softness, temporality, and the digestibility of material matters - an environmentalism of architectural material. The next life of the project, evolved into an epistemic inquiry between matter and energy. How can we ‘know,’ that matter which cannot be seen, but may be felt? Can material record energy, in this case, operating through the lens of warmed air? Humans have always changed their environment to make it more amenable or comfortable to their situation. Today, it can be argued that the practice of architecture has leaned its study towards the formal deployment of matter, as opposed to its energic one.3 Taking off from such a lineage, Immaterial Matters examines alternatives between matter and permanence, or better yet, between matter and energy. An Immaterial space, then, deploys logics for designing with warmed or hot air. The project examines applicable uses for building with temporal materialities within the fields of architectural fabrication and construction practices via the development of an Immaterial Brick. The Immaterial Brick, composed of soy-wax and gravel aggregate, responds to, records, and importantly, enables air. An Immaterial Space, derived via interior conditioning technology and its energies, considers entangled relationships between architecture and

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An (Im)material Cookbook

3 Reyner Banham tells a parable in which a savage tribe “arrives at a campsite and finds it well supplied with fallen timber.” He describes two basic methods for exploiting the environmental potential of the timber material. The first, is to use the wood to construct, the second is to utilize the wood as fuel – to build a fire. Reyner Banham, Environmental Management,” in The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), 18-28.


Above, material sample (#017. 1) introduces blue color dye into a soy-wax and marble chip aggregate mixture. An increased color intensity occurs where the dye block was not fully dissolved. Wrinkles, slight frosting and cracking are noted. Right, material sample (#031.4) examines pre-mixing strategies using soy-wax and a pea sized gravel aggregate. The gravel aggregate was pre-rinsed to avoid any coloration in the soy-wax.

(Im)material Matters

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Below, worktable, tools, and remnant wax after baking 10 bricks. The ten bricks can be seen on the lower right. Excess or remnant wax as well as defective bricks can be melted down and re-used in subsequent batches.

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environment through questions of the felt, the seen, the visible – the known. It was at this point in the life of the project, that the pandemic took hold, upended and spun certainties about not only our (seemingly trivial) exhibition timelines, but our lives as we had known and lived them. Nevertheless, raw matters had been purchased. Numerous neatly bound 50 lbs. packages of emulsified soy fat lay dormant upon a bending wooden pallet. A ton 4 of river gravel lay freezing outside of a college driveway. And along with these materials, the dream of tangible, physical work lay as a promised escape from the relentlessness of electric signals that had forged their dominance upon everyday life.

4 About 2000lbs or forty 50lb bags.

While Immaterial Matters has always been a story between matter and environment, the story began as a quest for the deployment of matter in a designed environment. Hot air was quite literally intended to describe the heated air applied via a series of heat guns into the space of the gallery. What ensued, is rather, much more accurately described as a creation story. A story of wax, rock, the changing of seasons – an always present, changing and surrounding air.

(Im)material Matters

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Each Instant, a New Space Catie Newell

Left, a full-scale mock-up used heat to fuse soy-wax and aggregate bricks together. The system uses no mortar, but rather relies on gravity to allow for a higher wax density towards the bottom of each brick.

Built to Last. Resilient. For the Ages. Architecture tends towards permanence. This is entirely understandable; the discipline, after all, is charged with constructing the world’s largest objects. Time, labor, and resources drive a sensibility for longevity. It is an investment that solidifies matter in place, at least for an assumed amount of time. This enduring effort defines a relationship to time with physical longevity. In this work, Office e.g. defies permanence in exchange for ephemerality. An (Im)material Space demonstrates that a heightened and accelerated impact rests in pairing with a precise moment in time, one that will vanish. Entangling with its atmosphere, this curated delicacy imparts the occupant with an experience that relies precisely on the moment they enter its premise, making all that is there, including the definition of space, fleeting. What persists is the methods of change and the memory. The blocks themselves are repeatable, provided for as a recipe and process. But reconfiguration is inevitable, and they only fully reveal themselves after the addition of hot air - dripping, combining, and releasing their inner aggregate. The energy of the air is transposed to the characteristic lines Each Instant, a New Space

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of melt and melding of forms. Each instant, a new space with no permanence and no dominate moment of start nor completion. Traces in the melts and in gravity suggest past forms and promise future ones. The space of the work, lies beyond any given geometry. The greatest lingering of An (Im)material Space may if fact be found in its smell. Smell far outpaces other senses in its association to memory. The scent will undoubtedly linger in the Space p11, however, it will find itself both strong and evasive in the future cues presented to its visitors. The walls will come back not only in future iterations, but also in memory. This softness by design expands across scales and conversations within the project. The smoothness that Office e.g. has mastered is an unexpected given within an architectural construction. It invites a balance with the soft body of human touch, one that is usually opposed as a definitive rigid constraint. Even the color evokes a softness. A rather natural color, though traditionally achieved as the application of an incredibly thin finish, here reads instead as a mass, revealing more of its colorful depth with each drip. The softness to this project extends to not just the material but its approach. The process of construction lasts longer than the existence of the space within Space p11. And, as Gรกlvez reflects on and generously gives away the delights of its making within the format of a cooking show, the process establishes its importance and its contribution to time. In the delivery of the recipe, 12

An (Im)material Cookbook

Right, a full-scale mockup used heat to fuse soy-wax and aggregate bricks together. The system uses no mortar, but rather relies on gravity to allow for a higher wax density towards the bottom of each brick.


agency lies with the viewer, its life endures in multiple moments of soft existence; a lasting permanence that is not physical. As it endures in ways only the ephemeral can, there too is a risk that one will entirely miss the existence work. Its time is short, its melt promised. (Im)material Matters suggest particular time over collecting or enduring time. In which case, one can find a permanent effect. The space bound by the delightfully digestible walls is not permanent, the impact is.

Each Instant, a New Space

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#014.2

XL / Or X

Version Sample Number

Fragrance Dye

Aggregate Scale Aggregate Type Mixing Method Mold Size

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Material Samples Mixing Methods

Mold Dimensions

Wax into Stone

Square: 2 x 2 x 2”

Pre-Mixed

Rectangle: 8 x 3.5 x 2.5”

Stone into Wax

Aggregate Type

Aggregate Scale

River Gravel

S : Tiny Pebbles

Marble Chips

M : Marble Chips L : Small Pebbles XL : Medium Pebbles

Dye

Fragrance N : No Dye

X : No

G : Grey

O : Yes

Aq : Aquamarine Bl : Blue L : Lavender Pi : Pastel Pink Or : Pastel Orange Be : Beige

Material Sample Key

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Notes: #001.1 - #001.2 - Wax poured over stones. Stones left exposed on face. #005 - #007.2 - Wax and stone pre-mixed, then poured into mold.

#001.1

M/NX

#001.2

M/NX

#005

L/NX

#006.1

L+XL / N X

#007.2

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M+L / N X


#008

XL / N X

#010

L/NX Notes: #008 - Wax and stone premixed, then poured into mold. #010 - Stones washed. Wax poured over stone. Stones covered fully.#011 - Wax poured over stones, wax did not pour all the way through. Binding issues noted. #012 - Wax poured over stones. Stones left exposed on pour face.

#011

#012

L/NX

#011.4

XL / N X

M/NX

Material Samples

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#014.1

XL / Or X

#014.2

XL / Or X

#016.1

L/NO

#016.2

L/NO

#017

M / Bl X

#017

M / Bl X

#017.1

M / Bl X

#023

M / Aq+G X

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Notes: #018 - Material Sample selected for full-scale brick fabrication.

#018.1

XL / N X

#018.2

XL / N X

Material Samples

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#021

XL / L X

#029.2

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M / Aq X

An (Im)material Cookbook

#022

XL / Pi+Or X


#031.4

L / Aq X

#030.1

XL / Aq X

#031.1

L / Aq X

#032.2

M / Gr X

#033.1

XL / Gr X

#033.2

XL / Gr X

Notes: #031 - Pour in wax little by little. Keep remaining wax on stove. Must keep wax as hot as possible for as long as possible.

#034.1

S / Gr X

Material Samples

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Above, resultant brick when the recipe was conducted in cool surrounding air. Below, resultant brick when the recipe was conducted in warm surrounding air.

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Fieldnotes, or An Environmental Disaster

1 In the Great derangement, Amitav Ghosh discusses knowledge that results from recognition. Recognition is a “passage from ignorance to knowledge” that relies in an “already existing awareness that makes possible the passage from ignorance to knowledge.” See Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017), 4-5.

This book contains a recipe for soy-wax brick making. It has been the product of diligent, yet erratic work-cycles. It is the product of many surprises. And, as such, all that we know is that it is in a continuous entanglement with its milieu. We had hoped for an infallible instruction set, one that, in the spirit of Sol Lewitt, contained within it the steps towards a dependable authorship. Instead, we recognized that a rock in the winter is not the same as a rock in the summer;1 that unforeseen environmental factors were far more authoritative than we could have predicted. I still remember the sizzle, an acoustic deluge, intense yet fleeting. Tiny frozen stones sizzled and steamed as they plunged into a bowl of boiling, liquid fat. As the sounds desist, the liquid becomes more and more solid. The cool stones draw the heat from the fat and freeze their interaction in place, almost instantly. Delaying an immediate solidification was a concern in allowing the wax to evenly suspend the stones, our mix required time. Think here of a concrete truck, churning and churning, fending solidification

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between cement and aggregate until the mix arrives to its designated formwork. In the frigid February of a late Michigan winter, our research team painstakingly finalized and perfected our brick recipe. Our recipe was filled with notes and strategies on hot to keep things warm. Heat guns and blankets scattered our impromptu kitchen. Plans for this exhibition as for many other, events, discussions, and gatherings were thwarted and we eventually discovered that an elongated timeline was both blessing and curse. Months later, in the increasingly pleasant early summer weather, we re-started our fabrication efforts. We set-up an outdoor gravel wash station. We enjoyed plentiful rays of sun through a south facing window in the fabrication lab. The heat-guns and blankets stood nearby. The brick recipe was followed, precisely. The results that followed were disastrous. In the temperate summer air, the gravel no longer maintained its icy disposition. Instead of immediately solidifying neighboring fat particles, the warmer gravel did not remove heat, but rather introduced heat into the mixture, in excess. When mixed, the gravel warmed by the summer air increased the temperature of the soy-wax. The wax increased the temperature of the gravel. The gravel re-heated the wax, entangling the mixture into a boil that refuted solidification.

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What had once sizzled, frozen now oozed, bubbled. Upon closer inspection it became evident, (and perhaps should have always been evident), that these matters were entangled not only with their own qualities but also with those of their environment. We slowly learned that subtle changes in the surrounding air affected our recipe, a recipe which hopelessly searched for a discrete set of instructions towards the making of the perfect wax and aggregate brick. In the end, perhaps ironically, every remedy to our recipe involved cooling the mixture. The gravel aggregate was kept indoors, conditioned in the mechanically produced 72ºF air. Hours passed as we allowed the ambient air to remove heat from the wax. We waited for cooling to occur as the wax rested between its hotter flash point (185ºF) and cooler pour temperature (160ºF). During these moments we often became impatient. We considered a refrigerator. We forged an ice bath. And, always the results were mostly unsuccessful (for our ends). Our accelerated, mechanized cooling didn’t perform in the non-oriented way that the mixture required of its surroundings. In the end, we let our patience grow. We relented to the air. This cookbook is, in a way, an artifact through which we might record learned entanglements and reciprocities between matter and its surroundings.

An Environmental Disaster

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Above, a series of bricks that were cast in cooler air following the original recipe. These bricks solidified within the first hour of casting.

Below, the resultant brick when the original recipe was followed precisely in warmer air conditions. This brick solidified within four hours of casting.

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How to Bake 10 Bricks

Ingredients 40 lbs. medium gravel, pre-rinsed and dried 18 qt. soy wax flakes aquamarine dye blocks, finely grated 2 tablespoons lavender fragrance oil, or preferred scent

Melting the Wax and Prep: Begin by preparing the double boiler. Remove the bain-marie and add 20 oz of water directly into the double boiler and turn the heat to high. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Replace the bain-marie insert into the double boiler.

Tools 11 qt. electric double boiler, with bain-marie insert 6qt. stand mixer, with metal bowl and whisk attachment ½ cup, ladle wax thermometer 2 cup measuring scoop silicone spatula metal sheet spatula 10 silicone molds, to match desired brick dimensions

Add half of the full amount of the soy-wax flakes directly into the bain-marie insert and cover until the wax has melted, for approximately 30 minutes. Once the initial portion of soy-wax has melted, add the remaining soy-wax flakes. Cover and allow the wax to reach its melting point, approximately 30 minutes. While the wax is melting, rinse the gravel aggregate and allow it to dry fully. Remove any gravel pieces over 1 inch in diameter. Allow the gravel aggregate to rest at room temperature. It is important that the gravel aggregate reach a neutral temperature that is neither too hot, nor cold as this will impact the casting process.

How to Bake 10 Bricks

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Once the flash point has been reached, we can begin the binding process by adding the dye and fragrance oils. Add nine 1/16th teaspoons of finely grated aquamarine dye to the wax. Next add two tablespoons of lavender fragrance oil. Stir gently until the mixture is consistent. Be sure not to stir too vigorously, as this will help minimize frosting and seeping issues during the curing process. Uncover the liquefied soy-wax, turn off the double boiler and allow the mixture to cool to its melting point, approximately 1 hour. For AAK Golden Brands 494 tart and melt soy-wax, the liquid should reach 160º Fahrenheit. While waiting for the soy-wax to cool, set up a series of ply-wood tracks to hold the long edges of the silicone molds in place. This will resist the hydrostatic pressure derived from the interior of the mold when the liquid wax is poured and will ensure a high geometric integrity of the bricks. If you don’t have plywood handy, you may deploy a makeshift structure, as needed. Lastly, setup the stand mixer using the whisk attachment. Right, brick baking equipment and tools, 10 bricks and remnant wax after a baking session. Excess or remnant wax as well as defective bricks can be melted down and re-used in subsequent batches.

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How to Bake 10 Bricks

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Mixing and Pouring: Once the equipment is set up, the pre-rinsed gravel aggregate has reached room temperature, and the wax has liquified, bound, and cooled to its pour temperature, the mixing and pouring process can begin. It is important to ensure that both the gravel aggregate and wax have reached their ideal temperatures to ensure proper curing. Place the mixing bowl into the mixer, snap the bowl into place, and raise the bowl into place using the side lever. Use the measuring ladle to add 3.5 cups of the soy-wax mixture into the mixing bowl. Next, add 2 scoops of the gravel aggregate into the mixing bowl. Turn on the mixer and whisk the soy-wax and gravel aggregate mixture on a low setting for 30 – 60 seconds, or just until the contents are consistently mixed and dispersed. Be cautious of over mixing as this can cause the gravel aggregate to become overheated and will extend the curing process. Once the contents are consistently mixed, lower the bowl, and remove the whisk attachment to remove the mixing bowl. Use the silicone spatula to pour the soy-wax and gravel aggregate mixture into the silicone mold. Vibrate the mold periodically by tapping it against the table surface to help remove trapped air bubbles within the mixture and to settle the gravel-aggregate. 30

An (Im)material Cookbook

Right, corner aggregation detail deploying 14 (im)material bricks.


Once the contents have over-filled the mold slightly, and the mold has been well vibrated, place the mold into the plywood track. Use the metal sheet spatula to smooth and flatten the exposed brick face and remove any excess soy-wax and aggregate mixture. Repeat the mixing and pouring sequence until you have reached the desired number of bricks. Allow the bricks to cure undisturbed in a stable room-temperature environment for approximately 8 hours.

How to Bake 10 Bricks

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Demolding, Storage and Clean Up: To demold, remove the bricks from the ply-wood track. Gently, flip each brick and place the exposed face on the table surface. Gently, pull back the silicone mold from the cured brick, starting at the corners and slowly working your way towards the center of the brick. Repeat until all the bricks have been demolded. Store the bricks in a dry and cool place. Use a metal or hard plastic spatula to remove any excess wax residue from the silicone molds and recycle that wax. Soy-wax residue and chucks can be melted and reused in future batches. Discard water from the double boiler. Wash tools, cooking implements, and equipment using boiling water and dish soap, as needed. Fusing the bricks: To fuse the bricks, layout each brick course making sure to orient the top and bottoms of each brick towards each other. Gently run an electric heat gun along each brick course, making sure to run the heat back and forth along each seam.

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Right, soy-wax and aggregate remnants from material samples.


How to Bake 10 Bricks

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Above, a resultant brick when following our original recipe during very cold temperatures. Due to the cold surrounding air, the aggregate and soy-wax to solidified before the mixing process was fully completed.

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Fieldnotes, of Recipes and Air

Mechanical mixing gives a more consistent result, when compared to hand mixing. The brick materials display increased boundedness to one another. This mixing method results in sharper corners and the brick can be demolded with very little chipping at the corners. The cook must coordinate the wax temperature and gravel temperature with the temperature of the surrounding air. This relationship changes based on environmental factors such as season and daily weather. There is no ideal time to cast, but the recipe must take the surrounding air conditions into account. In May and for our particular goals, the most suitable pour temperature for the wax was 160ยบF. The gravel must be conditioned and allowed to rest indoors at an ambient air temperature between 70-74ยบ for at least 8 hours prior to mixing. Hot rocks or gravel prevent the wax from solidifying by transferring their heat into the mixture. A lack of viscosity distributes the gravel unevenly and due to their Of Recipes and Air

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density gravity tends to move the stones towards the bottom half of the brick. When the wax is too hot it overheats the rocks, the rocks in turn reheat the wax and the above issue ensues. Additionally, the mixture will not solidify for hours. When pouring the wax and aggregate mixture into the brick mold, ensure that the mixture has started to solidify and turns opaque. This will create even consistency and suspension between the gravel and wax. Once the wax starts to solidify, remixing or continuous mixing will prevent the mixture from setting. As you mix, you re-introduce energy into the system. Over mixing will similarly introduce additional heat and cause the above conditions in the mixture. Remove the whisk before trying to remove the bowl from the stand mixer.1 The simplest way to clean the molds and tools is by using a dish soap that works well on grease and hot water. Lightly scrape off wax residue when demolding to make the washing process easier.

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1 See Julia Child, “A Three-Tiered Wedding Cake with Martha Stewart, part1,� in Baking with Julia, Public Broadcasting Service, 10 July 1997, accessed online, https:// www.pbs.org/video/juliachild-baking-julia-threetiered-wedding-cakemartha-stewart-part-1/.


Above, emulsified soybean oil, bound with aquamarine dye and gravel aggregate remnants. Remnants were collected after each batch, melted down, and re-used in subsequent batches.

Of Recipes and Air

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Below, a scene from the baking sequence at the Taubman College Fablab.

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Homemade Brick Recipe

Ingredients rocks or gravel, pre-rinsed and dried 18 qt. soy wax flakes dye blocks, finely grated fragrance oil

Tools hot plate or electric burner medium sauce pan metal pouring pitcher with heat resistant handle mixing bowl ½ cup, ladle wax thermometer measuring cups or scoops silicone spatula metal sheet spatula heat resistant flexible or detachable molds, to match desired brick dimensions

Melting the Wax and Prep: Begin by preparing the double boiler. Fill the medium sauce pan 1/3 full with water and place on the hot plate, add 20 oz of water directly into the double boiler and turn the heat to high. Bring the water to a rolling boil. The metal pouring pitcher will serve as the bain-marie. Add the soy-wax flakes directly into the pouring pitcher. Place the pouring pitcher into the medium sauce pan and allow the wax to reach its melting point, approximately 30 minutes. While the wax is melting, rinse the rock or gravel aggregate and allow it to dry fully. Allow the gravel aggregate to rest at room temperature. It is important that the gravel aggregate reach a neutral temperature that is neither too hot, nor cold, from 70-74Âş Fahrenheit, as this will impact the casting process.

Homemade Brick Recipe

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Once the soy-wax has fully liquefied use the wax thermometer to confirm that the wax has reached its flash point. Check your soy-wax packaging for temperature specifications from the manufacturer. Once the flash point has been reached, we can begin the binding process by adding the dye and fragrance oils. Add a pinch of finely grated dye to the wax. Next add the fragrance oil, at your desired strength. Stir gently until the mixture is consistent. Be sure not to stir too vigorously, as this will help minimize frosting and seeping issues during the curing process. Once the soy-wax has liquefied turn off the hot plate and allow the mixture to cool to its melting point. Check your soy-wax packaging for temperature specifications from the manufacturer. Mixing and Pouring: Once the wax has liquefied bound, and cooled to its pour temperature and the pre-rinsed rocks or gravel aggregate have reached room temperature, the mixing and pouring process can begin. Use the measuring ladle to add 3.5 cups of the soy-wax mixture into a mixing bowl. Next, add 2 scoops of the gravel aggregate into the mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula to stir the contents for 30 – 60 seconds, or just until the liquid wax and the gravel are consistently mixed 40

An (Im)material Cookbook


and dispersed. Be cautious of over mixing as this can cause the gravel aggregate to become overheated and will extend the curing process. Once the contents are consistently mixed, use the silicone spatula to pour the soy-wax and gravel aggregate mixture into a mold. Vibrate the mold periodically by tapping it against the table surface to help remove trapped air bubbles within the mixture and to settle the gravel-aggregate. Once the contents have over-filled the mold slightly, and the mold has been well vibrated, use a metal sheet spatula to smooth and flatten the exposed brick face and remove any excess soy-wax and aggregate mixture. Repeat the mixing and pouring sequence until you have reached the desired number of bricks. Allow the bricks to cure undisturbed in a stable room-temperature environment for approximately 8 hours.

Homemade Brick Recipe

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Entropy 2020 Meredith Miller

Hot gases rise. Ice melts at 32°F. If I fill my coffee mug with boiling water first, and allow heat to transfer from the water to the thermal mass of the ceramic walls, then my coffee will cool off more slowly. Predictable patterns of thermal behavior provide the basis for so much of our daily functioning. At this precarious moment in human history (pre-election, mid-pandemic, full-swing-anthropocene), some may find reassurance in the constancy of thermodynamics…. I do.

Left, the raw materials necessary for a 10 brick batch: soy-wax, gravel aggregate, lavender essential oil, and aquamarine dye chunks.

On my shelf sits a small but surprisingly heavy object made of light-green tinted wax and dark stone aggregate. Its squared edges and brick-like proportions lend it a similar range of affordances as that of a brick. One could stack up with others into a wall. Or sail through a pane of plate glass. To me, though, this brick says less of what it “wants to be” and more of the thermodynamic conditions of its making. This side of its story features two stockpiles of different materials (wax and stones), the environment in which they came to mingle, and an influx of enough energy to assert a higher degree of order, if only temporarily. I say temporarily because we know from the second law of thermodynamics that closed Entropy 2020

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systems of matter and energy tend toward disorder. Robert Smithson memorably illustrated the irreversible vector of entropy in his description of a sandbox with white sand in one half and black sand in the other. A child runs in clockwise circles until the sand mixes into gray. If the child were to start running counterclockwise, the sand would never sort itself back into ordered black and white piles. For (Im)Material Matters, Liz Gálvez’s vision at the outset was not just to make bricks, but to make bricks that would become wall that would become exhibition that would unbecome wall as its temporary state of order gave way to entropy. To do so, she choreographed irreversible vectors of exchange between matter and energy across two sites and two environments: the fabrication lab and the gallery. At the center of the first energetic system is the brick’s maker, Gálvez, who over the course of several weeks cultivated an attention to subtle thermal variables within the system that could impart physical differences to the bricks. The specified soy wax blend, manufactured for melting, will not burn, but softens at 115°F and begins to melt at 120°F. If the ambient air temperature in the fabrication lab was too low, the rocks would cool the surrounding hot wax upon contact. If the heated mixture went into the molds without losing some heat to its atmosphere first, the viscosity of the wax would be too liquid to support an even scattering of the aggregate. 44

An (Im)material Cookbook

Right, a full-scale mockup used heat to fuse soy-wax and aggregate bricks together. The system uses no mortar, but rather relies on gravity to allow for a higher wax density towards the bottom of each brick.


Producing hundreds of bricks out of wax and stone required a finely tuned awareness of these discrete moments of heat transfer and the ability to predict the resulting behavior. This accumulated material knowledge is not an end for GĂĄlvez but a means for design.

The second site hosts another round of energetic inputs, with Gålvez at first supplying the manual labor for stacking and the convective energy of a heat gun to meld the courses into walls. From here her design anticipates another energetic system but without her regulating inputs—the deliberate arrangement of matter now left vulnerable to new thermal inputs. The interior air temperature of the space would not likely reach the melting point of the soy wax on its own, at least at this stage of planetary warming. But perhaps with enough warm bodies, a crowded exhibition opening might produce micro-environments capable of softening a few edges or leaving a detectable slump at the end of the night. Intervals of convective heat applied by gallery staff will Entropy 2020

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expedite the process, like the kid running clockwise in the sand in fast forward. However, between these two sites and their distinct temporalities came an unexpected turn involving a much larger system of material and energetic exchange. Viral particles have swept across the world’s human population, causing extensive illness and death. In addition to the public health crisis, the pandemic has also resulted in the canceling of all manner of events and a generally upended state of life in 2020. For this project, the pandemic introduced a longer incubation period between its conception and installation. The bricks now travel to the gallery, but many of the people who may have done so to see the exhibition will only witness it through images on social media or through this publication. The audience who might have filled the space during an opening celebration will remain “together apart,” as they say now, with a subset of IRL visitors spread apart and exhaling warm air into masks. For longer periods the walls will stand undisturbed by hands or heat. In a strange reversal of the pandemic’s typical pattern of disruption, one of its effects here is that the wax brick walls might maintain a prolonged state of order compared to the designed entropy Gálvez had intended. Those straight edges and even peppering of rock, which register a careful calibration viscosity and heat, may remain as a testament of the human bodies that are not there. 46

An (Im)material Cookbook


Above, a batch of soy-wax and aggregate bricks colored with aquamarine dye.

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Building as Domestic Labor Ana María León

Left, brick baking equipment and tools.

Concrete masonry units are one of the most ubiquitous building materials in the so-called global south. Cheap to make and easy to assemble, they allow for self-build housing solutions for much of the world’s population. At the same time, they are made of cement, a toxic and environmentally demanding material. The CMU block embodies two incommensurable problems: housing precarity and global environmental collapse. The vast scale and complexity of these issues is simultaneously daunting and urgent. And yet, while the housing question remains an unresolved global challenge, the construction of shelter constitutes the domestic realm, a space traditionally dismissed as apolitical. Hannah Arendt has contributed to this misconception

Right, a scene from the project documentation film, “How to Bake 30 Bricks,” depicts the architects demolding a batch of bricks.

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by theorizing the domestic as the private sphere of the household. Understood as fulfilling basic necessities, the private realm allows for the development of a separate public sphere where politics take place. The domestic becomes the site of traditionally gendered labor dedicated to the sustenance of life: cooking, cleaning, and caring for the self and others. The processes mobilized by Office for Example point to the possibility of productively blending the politics of building with the processes of domestic labor. In doing so, I argue, they point towards the potential for careful, deliberate, and discrete acts to address global problems. The architects cook bricks. There is a careful and deliberate measuring of ingredients, adding and mixing, ladling and pouring. There’s baking and de-molding. In the end, we’re confronted with an aquamarine green brick with carefully graded gravel aggregate floating in its midst. In its solid state, the soy-wax emits a pleasant, yet faint smell, which reminds us of its promise: that it is ultimately able to melt, freeing both the scent and the aggregate it holds within. There are gendered cues carefully embedded in this narrative, and together they hint at an argument for an other architecture - an architecture of ephemerality, lightness, and care towards humans and non-humans. Discussions about gender and architecture too often fall under the banner of inclusion, carefully avoiding discussion of gendered traits. At the same time, we can’t 50

An (Im)material Cookbook

Right, scene stills from the film, “How to Bake an (Im)material Brick.” The film presents a step-bystep video, describing the architects recipe for wax preparation and casting processes.


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avoid the toxic masculinity attached to the model of the heroic architect, traits that have been eagerly cultivated and replicated by the culture of studio reviews, grueling late nights, and starchitect worship. Ideas of monumentality, solidity, and permanence are further embodied by the buildings that result from this culture. To what degree are these toxic traits also part of the building industry and the stresses it has created on the environment and the population of the planet? Office for Example proposes an alternative by reframing the production of building materials within the realm of the domestic. By approximating brick fabrication to cooking, they endow building fabrication and construction with the traits of food preparation: the social space of the kitchen, the careful measuring and folding of ingredients, the multiple tasks and small pauses that are part of meal preparation. The bricks remind us that building can also be associated with care, protection, empathy, and shared actions. At a broader scale, they suggest the possibility of reclaiming building as domestic labor. The political implications of such reframing remain an open question, but one that may allow us to think alternatives to toxic modes of operating towards humans and non-humans.

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Right, a scene from the project documentation film, “How to Bake 10 Bricks,� depicts the architects baking a series of 10 bricks.


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Dining with the Wolf Space p11

We all know the story of The Three Little Pigs. Neither straw nor wood will keep out the wolf, only the house of bricks. What does the frustrated wolf do? In the popular 1922 retelling by Flora Annie Steel, he climbs down the chimney and into a pot where he’s boiled for the pigs’ supper. Left, a scene from the project documentation film, “How to Bake 30 Bricks,” depicts the demolding process for a batch of bricks.

When Western thought turns to nature, it tends to do so from the standpoint of Enlightenment ideas about human subjectification of nature through industrious labor so neatly captured in this tale. As humans increasingly find ourselves subject to nature despite or even because of our grandest interventions, the story becomes less convincing. Could it be we never really boiled the wolf, its breath just got hotter? As the house of bricks melts, our world begins to collapse. Part slow-burn durational performance, part landscape diorama, Liz Galvez’s Im(Material) Space, Designing with Air, at Space p11 in the Chicago Pedway, updates the tale of the Three Little Pigs for a new era of mutual subjectivity. True to the industrious spirit of the Three Little Pigs, Galvez first toils at brick-making, Dining with the Wolf

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brick-moving, and brick-stacking; but unlike the story, a waft of hot air is enough to blow down this seemingly solid matrix. As an allegory for climate change, it demonstrates the falling-apart of enlightenment fairy tales at a very human scale. It is hard not to see little receding glaciers, tiny meltwater lakes, and delicate rocky moraines in this decomposition. Set in a basement vitrine, Designing with Air models the closed system in which we find ourselves trapped. No longer able to access an exterior to our rapidly warming Earth-chamber, with nowhere to dispose of our waste or to mine anything new, we are left to watch it all melt away under the hot breath of the wolf as we contemplate a future casting about in our own mess. When the house of bricks fails, where do the pigs go? What kind of house can they—can we—make next? Designing with Air offers us a new perspective on old questions about our relationship to our environment and to our buildings, and to how to live among both. Like the story of The Three Little Pigs, it has its own morals. The first of these is not to see collapse as failure. Buildings and nature are subject to one another and their dynamic relationship only becomes destructive when resisted. Next? Invite the wolf in for dinner: share, maybe tell new stories, or very old ones. Admit that if

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the wolf boils so do we. Only by recognizing and embracing our mutual dependence on our environment can we hope to live in it.

Right, a pallet holding approximately 445 soy-wax and aggregate bricks fabricated by the architects, and weighing over one ton.

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Š 2020 Office for Example, all rights reserved.

Profile for Elizabeth Galvez

An (Im)material Cookbook  

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