Located next to the Pacific Ocean, the city of San Francisco has access to a near endless supply of sea salt. Bay Area design company Emerging Objects has taken advantage of the abundant natural resource, and 3D printing technology, to create the 'Saltygloo', a pavilion made from 336 3D printed sea salt panels supported by lightweight aluminum rods.
Created by Emerging Objects founders, Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, the Saltygloo is an artistic experiment in using 3D printing technology and additive manufacturing techniques to turn local materials into resilient structures. The team explained to Dezeen that 500,000 tons of sea salt is collected each year near San Francisco Bay from Redwood City’s 190-year-old crystallization ponds. Through a process that takes five years to complete, salty water is moved through a series of shallow ponds that use evaporation to eventually leave 8-12 inches of crust.
For the Saltygloo, Rael and San Fratello used a powder-based 3D printer. Fine layers of salt were laid down in between a binding agent to form hundreds of modular panels. Each element was randomly rotated as it was fitted next to its neighbor to recall the way that salt naturally occurs. The overall shape of the pavilion is taken from Inuit igloos and the forms of tools used in boiling brine. The translucency of the material allows light to filter through, illuminating the saline structure.
The Saltygloo can currently be seen at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design as a part of their New West Coast Design 2 exhibit running through January 5. The team plans to further refine their methods to fabricate a whole room with freestanding walls using salt and 3D printers.