To publicize our studio’s methods of wax production, the informative posters designed by each member of the class would be scaled down to fit in a small booklet (5.5″x3.5″)

Also, we are developing an informational poster to present our mission at profit-shares and fundraising “spirit” nights that we have scheduled with various local eateries. Here is our first version:


To prepare for developing a new building prototype that combines program of factory (wax production), radio (community awareness/info base), and community garden (community building recreation and health awareness), I looked at several radical groups that proposed innovative building types in the past.

One was ANT FARM. While reviewing a text entitled “Ant Farm 1968-1978” by Constance M. Lewallen and Steve Seid from Texas A&M’s library collection, I learned that the (primarily architectural) collective was involved in a number of endeavors that were innovative expressions of the avant garde lifestyles and were critiques of out-dated societal norms. Indeed, the Brutalist architectural movement that characterized much of the architecture of the 1960s was the polar opposite of the inflatable structures designed for a mobile lifestyle for which they are particularly well-known. The following image was found on a blogsite titled Experimental Communities

However, one experimental/proposed idea in the book really caught my attention: ANTFARM’s Surplus City.

This combination of community functions into a strange and interesting sections is very intriguing.

Another group I looked into was Future Systems. Founded in 1982, the group primarily produced theoretical designs until the 1990s. Much of the work uses construction techniques from other industries (such as airplane or boat) to design radical architectural solutions. The book “Future Systems: The Story of Tomorrow” compiles many of their projects. One in particular that I found interesting for my research was a garden center designed for Kew Gardens.

The last group I researched was FOA (Foreign Office Architects). In the book I found about their practice, FOA reviews its own architectural efforts from 1993-2003 and it is chock-full of programmatic/conceptual diagrams as well as beautiful plans and sections. The book is entitled “Phylogenesis: foa’s ark.” Phylogenesis refers to “the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms, or of a particular feature of an organism.” They believe their architectural work is an evolving hybrid belonging to a global order of design that responds to local specificities.

Some images of work that I found provocative for my exploration include the following:

Meydan Retail complex in Istanbul, Turkey

Yokohama Ferry Terminal, Yokohama, Japan

Sketches of my own ideas will be in the next post.

One of the main reasons the Las Lomas community wishes to have a community garden is to enable them to grow some of their own fruits and vegetables.

Vegetable Gardening Online is an excellent website I found that talks about how to maximize vegetable growth in minimal space using vertical gardening.

“Vertical gardening can be anything from training one or two of your vegetables to grow upward in the garden, to creating an elaborate structure with a frame and cross shelving to contain an entire garden in a small space. Or anything in between! You can use wooden or metal trellises, hanging baskets, shelves, containers, a wood frame, or any combination of these, to create a space-saving vertical garden.”

Some of the vegetables that require vertical support (they are climbers):

  • Cucumber
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Lima Beans

Some vegetables that do NOT require vertical supports:

  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Potato
  • Parsley
  • Herbs

As far as garden location, the site has the following helpful tips:

  • Most vegetable plants need 6+ hours of sunlight
  • Avoid shading trees or shrubs
  • Best if facing south

However, the leafy vegetables do grow well in shade or partial shade.

For region-specific produce, I found this article “The Best Vegetables to Grow in South Texas” by Christie Gross. She identifies the three “best” vegetables to be potatoes (especially red-skinned varieties), tomatoes (which need specific soil conditions), and eggplant (especially as a winter crop).

Also, the Texas AgriLIFE Extension of the Texas A&M System has produced an 11-page Texas Home Vegetable Gardening Guide. This is a fantastic and concise resource, discussing advantages for different crops in both small and large gardens. As well as covering specific needs, harvesting and yield of different crops, the guide identifies different growing regions and schedules through Texas and recommends various methods for soil fertilizing, pest control, and weed control.

We will be designing a community garden for the Las Lomas community using hydroponic or aquaponic systems.

Here are some rudimentary research images and links on hydroponic gardening:

Jason’s Indoor Guide to Organic and Hydroponic Gardens is a website that covers many of the different systems/set ups used for hydroponic gardening. The following image is a diagram of the “Wick System.” Click on the image to go to the site.

Click on this next image to link to another blog that gives descriptions of several hydroponic e-books as well:


Las Lomas Community

February 22, 2011

How-To make a “bottleneck” candle with palm wax and an empty plastic bottle:

Alternative candle options using the same bottleneck mold:

To see other studio wax projects, visit the Class Blog!

MicroXproduct – Wax

February 11, 2011

The other new wax experiment was an attempt to use the incredible, strange forms of the wax when it pours into the water and cools. A flaw in one of the first molds led to the wax leaking out into the water I was trying to cool the form in. What resulted was an interesting mass of wax with holes and undulations.

So, in this mold, I kept the base of the waterbottle with the bottom of it still attached to the middle, in order to catch any water that leaked. I inserted the wick into the lid hole and twisted it to get some of the wax to more firmly plug the hole. Then, once the wax was melted and ready to pour, I put some water in the mold first. Then I slowly poured the wax into the mold. Some of the wax cooled in that initial pour and the rest cooled slowly above that layer. Because the base of the candle was in the ridged area of the waterbottle mold, it would not pop out once entirely cooled. Thus, 3 slits were made along the ridged sides, the sides were bent upwards, and the candle was able to come out without forcing (which might have harmed the delicate forms at the top of the candle).  Some of the initial wax that cooled was unconnected to the base, but those pieces can be melted down with the wax for the next candle, so there would be no waste.

Pictures soon!

Taxed with developing a wax product that the community of Las Lomas in Rio Grande City, TX, can produce and sell on a micro-economy scale, I began research into the matter.

Wax comes from various sources, notably animal fat, petroleum, bees, or plant oils. Intrigued by “eco-friendly” candles, like those made of soy wax, which burner longer, cleaner, and at a lower (less dangerous) temperature, I looked into beeswax and various plant sources. Beeswax has the potential to encourage honey production and bee farms in the area as well, promoting a secondary economic benefit. I may return to that thought, but for now, I have been captivated by the potential of plant oil wax.

The most well-known plant wax sources are soy plants and palms. Although the good qualities of soy wax are well documented online, the plant does not seem ideal for the Rio Grande Valley. Palms seemed more promising, but again, I was interested in finding a source that was already native to the area or would be very easy to cultivate.

In the meantime, I started to experiment with the wax/candle casting process itself. Using crystal-form palm wax, a plastic bottle, pre-made wicks, a nail, knife, cutting blade, pan, glass bottle, water, and a stove, I began the process.

I heated the wax in a makeshift double-boiler (glass jar in water in pan) over medium-low heat, stirring with a table knife. When the wax was fully melted, I poured it into the mold.

Let me describe the candle mold. I wanted to use a plastic bottle for the candle mold, having some ideas of using it as a base, mold, and wick-holder. In the slideshow below, you will see the first sketches I made for the idea. The bottle is cut into 3 pieces – the top with the cap holds the wick and is the form that wax is poured, the middle serves as a stable base for the inverted top, and the base of the bottle sits atop with the end of the wick threaded through to hold it while the candle cures.

Of the trials (seen in sequence in the slideshow), the first candle I attempted to cool in a foil-lined cup of water. The hole cut in the cap to hold the wick was cut, not punched, and so the wick became loose and the wax leaked out into the water. The resulting mass of wax does have interesting aesthetic qualities, however. In the other trials, the cap hole for the wick was punched, which resulted in a much tighter fit. Also, no cooling with water was tried. Instead, the candle just rested in the base until it hardened naturally. The cooling took about an hour. The least disturbance of the mold while cooling, the better. Once fully cooled, the bottle was squeezed, the cap untwisted and pulled off, and the candle was pushed out.

Testing the actual burn of the candle will soon follow! As will new research about plant wax that’s native to Texas! Stay tuned!

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