Material Obsessions
Tenets Publications
Archive Information
The Beginning and the End at Once
The Process is the Idea
The Formwork is Architecture
The Process of Construction is a Performance
The Building Makes Its Site

A slab of wax is like a piece of rock. It can be fractured under great force, carved by the repeated strikes of a hammer and chisel, and made liquid under intense and constant heat. Its properties lend itself to the earth. Wax is constantly in a raw state, continuously ready to change and be changed again. Its resting state is solid, but when liquid it takes the shape of its container and flows freely in the absence of one. A formwork for wax is like that of concrete, however there is absolutely no room for error. When liquid, wax is virtually as thin as water. It will find any crack, no matter how miniscule, and seep out of its mold. Wax in motion is wax yearning to be at rest. The hot liquid flows like lava until it slowly cools into a formless solid, building itself up in layers around the base of a defective formwork.

A formwork without faults will produce a perfect prism of wax. Its clean faces and edges are delicate, yet as a solid mass the block is strong. Like concrete, when cured its surface mirrors that of the material it was cast in. An acrylic formwork produces a glassy and marbled texture, while a foam board formwork leaves the block matte with a fine grit. These prisms can be placed in a formwork, cast around, and then melted away to carve out a void within a concrete solid. In this process the wax first becomes a part of the formwork, and then, after the concrete cures, a part of the formed piece. As wax begins to melt it starts to drip down the sides of the concrete mass, slowly gathering at the base of the block. Once the wax is thoroughly heated the slow drip will give way to a steady stream and the scattered droplets will amass into a small pool.

This moment resembles the splash of water and the trace of rust collecting on the floor and wall around the steel pipes pumping hot spring water into Therme Vals. Over time the runoff grows wider and wider, a sign of the continuous flow of water into and through the building. Inside the baths, water becomes the site. The architecture provokes the visitor into believing that water has always been there. Walls of stacked gneiss blocks rise out of the various pools as stairs of the same material gently descend into them. Almost level with the floor, the plane of water is calm like the still surface of a lake nestled between two mountains. In Vals water is a material equal to stone and concrete. Without water it would not just be incomplete, but also site less. The building creates the landscape it exists in.

Cascading down the side of the block, wax gathers around the base of the concrete and flows outward. The melting wax reveals openings in the block but can never be completely removed from the concrete. Coating the interior of the block, it darkens the hue of the concrete. It is soft and smooth to the touch. Any air pockets within the concrete become filled with wax, making the surface feel flat without appearing so. Thin coatings of dry wax spread on the exterior walls of the block giving the illusion that the concrete is wet. The streams of wax solidify and hang on the side of the block like waterfalls frozen in time. All the wax that once occupied the voids of the block now surrounds it. The cooling wax rises to a level almost equal to the lowest opening in the concrete block, grounding the piece permanently in the field of solid wax. The material which helped build the block and then became a part of it has now made the site in which it rests. The resulting image is not unlike the one that was created by the defective formwork; however, the presence of the concrete block transforms the way the moment is perceived.