After long series of intuitive experimentation on all kinds of material, one in particular caught our attention because it stood out in terms of its aesthetic, functional and structural qualities. Called “Straw-k”, it is made of plastic tubes melted together on the surface. This type of assembly is the basis of a homogeneous material, here composed of polyethylene, which requires no binding agent (called autogenous welding). In the first place, we tested all the scientific properties of the Straw-k in terms of fabrication process and tools, structural/mechanical qualities and relation with light and sound, to evaluate its possible applications. For that, we fabricated dozens of hand crafted prototypes using different forms, lengths, diameters and colours of the plastic tubes.
The second main point was about finding an innovative manufacturing technique which could optimize the time and the result of the process. So we designed and developed an automated Straw-k manufacturing process for the melting stage, using an industrial robot. As of today, we had the possibility to test it on two flat surfaces of 1 sqm each, with two torches at the same time in an X,Y axes.
All this researches ended by the proposal of a scale 1 installation in the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture hall (Paris) made of 250 000 plastic straws for a total of 12 sqm of matter. Spread on the bleachers of the ESA main hall, the Straw-k installation was multifunction shape: a floor, a wall, a seat, a bench, etc. where the students were able for 10 days to test the qualities of the material. The installation was here to deform the black and white rigid colour repartition of the school hall into an organic shape, giving for the first time a real function to the bleachers and a singular atmosphere to the place.