Casting a New "City of Dreams"

Recycled aluminium cans serve to build Governors Island pavilion.
2 April, 2017
Each year, a not-for-profit arts organization called FIGMENT hold a competition to see who will build that year's summer pavilion on Governors Island.
FIGMENT works along with the Structural Engineers Association of New York and the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee to determine what will adorn the historic small patch of green space and recreation that is just off the southern tip of Manhattan.
This year, the City of Dreams Pavilion competition winners will be creating a massive aluminium canopy made from 300,000 recycled aluminium cans – and using an innovative technique to cast the molten aluminium, using natural cracked clay molds drawn from the same soils as Governors Island itself.

The competition, now in its seventh year, drew more than 100 design proposals before the "Cast & Place" vision of Team Aesop was selected. The contest requires architects and designers to think creatively about the environmental impact of their designs, and how waste and recyclable materials – followed by their disposition at the end of the pavilion structure's season – will be transformed.
Image: Bustler
While there are many such projects that rely on recycled aluminium packaging or construction materials, Team Aesop saw the creative process a little differently. They decided to create molds from the clay earth itself, delivered from an excavation site in Queens, and set into recycled wooden frames from Big Reuse, an organization that returns building materials and storm debris back to the market. The molds are filled with clay that is dried and cracked, giving them the textured effect of a dry riverbed.

The molten aluminium is then poured into the cracks of the earthen molds, which looks at first a bit like one of those amusing "what happens if" science projects at Gizmodo. Yet the "Cast & Place" project is no joke, as it seeks to develop an understanding of the material science behind the process to create the innovative panels. Once the aluminium cools and is removed from the clay mold, the lattice panel is made entirely from the aluminium that was in the cracks – leaving it full of airy holes and natural swirls.
Image: Inhabitat
"The results are light, strong panels that provide structure and shade, assembled into spaces for performance and play," FIGMENT said. As with aluminium products manufactured in more conventional ways, the cracked-clay molds yield panels that are just as durable but visually interesting, much like lead frames for stained glass windows. The "Cast & Place" pavilion team will rely on the ecofriendly panels to build the sides, roof and seating benches of the two shaded shelters placed in the park for the summer.

As lightweight as the aluminium is, the project is heavy on symbolism. New York City generates 300,000 aluminium cans per hour – enough to fill a room 3 meters high and 7.6 meters squared – so that is the reason why Team Aesop participants chose the same number of cans to work with. Led by master metals sculptors Scot Thompson and Bruce Lindsay, the Team Aesop participants are collecting cans from partners all over the Big Apple to meet their goal, and relying on community partners to provide materials for their canopy.

They've also relied on the community for their $30,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding appeal, which will ensure funding for earth-moving trucks, metal fabrication and other costs. With a deadline of March 27 and just four hours to go before midnight, the "Cast & Place" project had just exceeded its goal by about $1,000 and was ready for the shelter to become an ecofriendly artistic reality for City of Dreams 2017.