Within the realm of architecture I typically work with materials that are composite. Some of these materials consist of plaster, foam core, and cardboard. Foam core seems to be the worst of these materials. The ingredients of foam core consist of polystyrene in the center with white clay coated paper or kraft paper on the outside. Polystyrene is one of the most commonly used petroleum plastics. Where is this made? What is the difference between polystyrene and polyethylene?
Is there a way similar to Caroline’s work, that we can use foam core as a composite. Foam core takes a long time, if it ever disintegrates in landfills. It is important to look at the Life Cycle of these products and the ecological footprint of them. Where are they being made, who is making them? Where do the materials of these composites come from? Are these companies out sourcing and providing jobs for people in the community with good/ safe work environments or are they the next Walmart?
As an architect it is important to know/ understand these ideas of Life Cycle which ecological footprint falls under. Do you use materials that are mined/ harvested in the area? Or do you specify an exotic wood that comes from Costa Rica? I get to decide these things in my architecture as I get to also decide which materials to use in models. As clients come to me it is my responsibility to specify materials that I think are ethically responsible. I would choose the Zumthorian approach to materials using local materials in the area, with a small ecological footprint, where the ones mining/ harvesting the materials are treated right.
At the large scale of architecture I understand the importance of social justice, life cycle, and “sustainability.” As far as the materials we currently use at RISD in the architecture department it is far from these ideas. I have no clue where the materials I am using come from. Is plaster better to use than foam core? What is the best mold making material? What is the best for the maker to be breathing?
I am interested in exploring ways of recycling foam core or other non-recyclable materials that end up in the trash as part of a composite or hybrid material. I am not sure that melting petroleum products is the way to go, but there has to be another process of re-using. Even thinking about plaster, how can it be broken up and used with another material to achieve a certain effect. We could create the new CesarStone with casted material scraps.
Caroline’s work is great, very inspiring. I am excited to start thinking about ways in which we can re-use our materials and make a new composite material.