Ocean Articulated

The self-initiated project Ocean Articulated started with a geomorphological investigation into material cycles of salt and sand/gravel, where those materials lay on each other, as remains of a prehistoric sea and deposits of glacial erosion in the High-Rhine area of the Northern Switzerland. 

Side table. SE, 2022.

The study of the geomorphology of a landscape usually involves time periods of millions of years. A period of time that is abstractly large compared to a human lifetime and the entire history of mankind. However, it is a relevant time period when considering the formation of natural resources and their availability for the future.

The focused area is rich in sand and gravel at the surface and in the subsurface are the largest salt deposits in Switzerland. Salt rock formed there as a result of evaporation from a prehistoric sea that covered northern Switzerland about 60 to 250 million years ago. Over time the salt layer was covered by eroded gravel and sand which protected it from dissolving in the rain.

Salt Hill Saline Riburg. SE, 2021.

Washed Sand. Quarry Stadel. SE, 2022.

The above-average occurrence of gravel and sand in this area is related to the past glacial expansion 25,000 years ago. The ice reached the area, resulting in large sediment deposition. While Switzerland has a large amount of sand due to erosion of the Alps, globally construction sand is a scarce resource. The world’s annual sand usage is around 50 billion tonnes, most of it is used by the construction industry as part of the concrete mixtures. Once it is cured as an aggregate in concrete, sand can not be recovered.

Site geology.

Places of extraction.

High Rhine area.

Considering the environmental impact of sand extraction and the associated transportation costs, the question arose whether there is a way to use sand as a reusable material and communicate this aesthetically in a form appropriate to the material.

Morphological Changes 1982-2019 

Accordingly, our goal was to develop a recyclable and load-bearing material with locally extracted salt, sand and plant based natural binder. During the development process, salt became a part of the binder mix, as it also has a binding capacity itself. In Namibia it was used to build roads mixed with mud and in Siwa Egypt to build earth houses mixed with mud and gypsum. After many experiments, we had a recipe that worked very well. 

Material experiments. SE, 2021.

To build objects and structural elements we used a sand casting method, which is traditionally used for casting metals. It was the ideal casting type for this project as it is a relatively simple process, enables us to use the same sand for mould building and more importantly it imprints the granular structure of the material on the objects’ surface.

The initial compressive strength test proves the load-bearing capacity for the developed material and is around 15.6 MPa (mega pascal), which makes it a structural material (As a reference, a family house can be built with a material has the compressive strength around 3-4 MPa).

Excavating object. SE, 2022.

The objects and mould can be built layer by layer, similar to other additive manufacturing techniques. This additive ability enables the possibility to manufacture cantilever forms. The humid paste is placed into the empty space which is created in the sand mould and it partly joins with the mould surface while hardening. As a consequence of this merge, each casting produces slightly different and coincidentally transformed results. After the drying process, mould sand can be removed and the object is excavated. So far we produced a series of stools, tiles and pedestals.

Similar to the mixing and setting process, the recycling process is fairly straight-forward and the material can be easily dissolved into its raw materials, sand and salt, either by natural decomposition or rapidly with water. The temporary nature of the objects is a reminder to be careful when selecting materials and to simply borrow them from nature rather than consuming. We would like to draw attention to the concept of time in relation to the formation of materials, something people rarely consider when it comes to buying a product.

Eroding of side-table. SE, 2022.

Tiles Ocean Articulated. SE, 2022.

Side-table. SE, 2022.

Collection side-tables Ocean Articulated. SE, 2022.

Project info

2021 - Zürich
Sand, salt, natural binder.
Sand casted pieces are produced in Kunstgiesserei St. Gallen ︎︎︎ workshops.
Thanks to Schweizer Saline ︎︎︎ and KIBAG ︎︎︎ for their contributions.
The project is supported by ProHelvetia ︎︎︎.


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Geologische Entstehungsgeschichte der Schweiz. ︎︎︎

Swisstopo (2020): Geologie tektonische Karte. ︎︎︎

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Georessourcen ETH Zürich (2013): Kies und Sand, NEROS Factsheet. ︎︎︎

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Schweizer Salinen AG (2020): Salzgewinnung. ︎︎︎

Swisstopo (2020): Hydrologische Karte. ︎︎︎

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Swisstopo (2020): Map.Geo.Admin. ︎︎︎

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Video: SEGUINOT, J. (2018): Advance and retreat of the Alpine glaciers during the last glacial cycle, Vimeo. ︎︎︎

SE = Studio Eidola