November 23, 2016
A BETTER BUILDING BLOCK WITH JIM NICHOLLS
Ryan Salas, Tolla Dahlgren, Lauren Wabiszewski, Andre Kullmar, and Anna Grundmark all collaborated on the design and fabrication of a better building block that fits within a wall of standard module concrete blocks but adds the interactive feature of passively amplifying music played by your phone.
The process began with two intentions – integrate the interactive feature of passive sound amplification and aggregation of shape within a typical CMU block. A half sphere was chosen because of its amplifying quality and modular geometry. A plaster cast prototype using clay quarter and eighth spheres provided valuable insight on how to create a half sphere out of the union of three blocks.
For this project, the final product is not only the concrete blocks but also the form used to cast the blocks. Five MDF boards, lined with packaging tape for a smooth finish, are screwed together to create the overall volume. Styrofoam spheres cut into quarter and eighth spheres with the wire cutter were then screwed into place. A phone-holding notch, modeled out of clay, is then attached to the proper spheres. Finally, a coat of petroleum jelly is applied to both the MDF and the partial spheres to ensure an easy release. The concrete is left to cure for two days after which the screws are undone and the mold is released, resulting in a plastic-smooth finished concrete block with spherical subtractions at the corners and midpoints along the long edges.
One commonality between music and technology is the ability to connect people. The union of three simple blocks creates a shrine for music and technology to amplify the world we share. The decibels are literally doubled, but imagine the psychological effect on a group of friends. This project raised many questions – what would a hollow wood block sound like? A metal one? What condition would a field of differently sized spheres provide?