Bone Plaster

One Week Project, RCA, Mechanism

Created in 2019

In 2015, the Architectural Design Firm, Foster+ Partners, revealed a concept for a 3D printed Mars habitat. A closer look at the design shows the internal pattern of the 3D strucutre closely resembles trabecular, or spongy, bone. Trabecular bone is light weight (not dense) and incredibly strong, proving to be a wise choice for a such a structure.

So how did they model it? Skittles.

The bone structure was modeled using the random stacking pattern of Skittles, M&M varieties, and other such round candies. This was then turned into an algorithm to produce the bone pattern.But what if it was never turned into a computer model, and instead utilized the popular sugary candy? This is what I aimed to demonstrate and replicate.

Ref: Foster + Partners, Guillen et al.

To not pollute the stool with vibrant colours, I first washed away all the colour in the skittles, removing them from water after just about one minute. Making a large box mold, I poured various candies in and cast plaster over it. I chose plaster as a casting material because in colour and in texture, it felt most true to the bone mimicry. Initially, the skittles were all clumping towards the bottom, so I took apart the mold and glued the skittles in a packed and quasi random fashion towards the walls and base of the mold. Once everything had dried, I began to pour the plaster. After the plaster set, I removed the mold and soaked the plaster in water to dissolve out the Skittles.

Unfortunately when I was setting the plaster cast on a base after the skittles has soaked out, the base got tipped over and the plaster model shattered. All that remains are pieces of broken bone, shown below. However, if you look closely you can follow the tunnels of space left by the candies, and the porous surfaces left from trapped moisture. Even with a sad end, this was a thoroughly fun and sweet investigation.