lufa series

loofahs

This self directed project was the result of an extensive exploration of the qualities loofah to try and control it to a point where it can be used as a building material and to incorporate it into the creation of functional objects. Each of the resulting objects exploits one or many of the qualities of the material, like lightness, translucency, heat insulation, texture, shock absorption etc. The aesthetics of these objects came as a secondary reflection after many weeks of experimenting. The loofahs were cut in various ways, mixed with other materials like cement and wood, sewn together, flattened, and molded when they were wet to then dry them and have them conserve that particular shape. Once I had a mental archive of this very pragmatic information I went on to design the actual appearance of the objects, always making the material the main point of interest rather than the object itself.

Loofahs are actually the fruit from a vine that is related to pumpkins yet it grows vertically attaching itself to trees. Once this fruit matures it is then dried and harvested mainly to be used as a scrubbing device. What is wonderful about this fruit is that in tropical countries a farmer can produce up to 8000 of them per hectare since they can be guided vertically. They are also harvested after only 10 months; they use very little nutrients from the soil and leave almost no roots behind, making it a very sustainable option when compared to wood. The project in general was a great learning experience with very inspiring results as the material went beyond the realm of the bathroom to perform other roles in the rest of the house giving it a new perceived value

developmentdivider

closed divider

holding divider

colours

4dividers

divider dividing

translucency

translucent divider

4 translucent dividers

light lufas

Before reaching the end of its life cycle 95% of the weight of the loofah consists of juice which is extracted. The remaining network of xylem or fibres only weights a few grams. This quality made the material ideal for these very light panels. They consist of wooden frames onto which the sliced loofahs were sewn using a brightly coloured chord which is also used as a hinge mechanism as it tenses and releases.

table front view

table 3/4 view

table close up

table aerial view

lamp

joint lamp

light from lamp

lampshade detail

The very tight and intricate arrangement of the individual fibres that form the fruit have an interesting effect of translucency as they let some of the light pass through the minuscule gaps between the layers of the xylem. The internal construction of the fruit is that of an irregular cylinder supported by internal ribs that are made out of tougher fibres. For the making of this lamp these ribs were cut off and only the outer structure was kept, this was then wetted to soften it and moulded into a perfectly even cylinder. Once dry, the fibers retain the shape they were moulded into. The lamp uses a cold LED bulb for health and safety reasons yet it gives a very nice glow as light passes through the fibres of the fruit.

hot chocolate set

close up of mug

carafe laying on table

hot chocolate set with and without loofah

pouring chocolate

foaming the chocolate

holding the mug

In Mexico people have been drinking hot chocolate for thousands of years and the word itself comes from the aztec name xocolātl, I decided to pay a homage to the very ancient tradition of drinking this hot beverage by reinterpreting the traditional terracotta drinking vessels used in Mexico up to today. The results of the experiments to try and mould the loofah to a predetermined shape when wet lead me to develop these drinking vessels and carafe where the insulating properties of the loofah are put to use. The  material envelops the mug and keeps your skin away  form the hot surface thus eliminating the need of a handle. The big carafe keeps the liquid hot for hours as  the heat is contained using a cork stopper and the loofah prevents the heat form dissipating. The base of the vessels was made by simply dipping the loofah into wet cement. The results are objects that have a whole range of tactile information and contrasts that go from smooth to rough giving a fuller and warmer experience.

group of planters

detail on planters

divider, table, lamp, chocolate set

picture of all the objects

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