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Oct 04
Orange Coast College Goes to MARS

joseph sarafian and ron culver standing into front of web like dome structureWhen Amazon founder and technology entrepreneur Jeff Bezos laid eyes on the structure that OCC architecture instructors Joseph Sarafian and Steve Fuchs helped design and construct using a new method of concrete casting, he called it "Insane. Which is the best compliment I can give." 

The structure — commissioned by Bezos for his annual MARS Conference in Palm Springs — was built using industrial robots and fabric Lycra sleeves, and the finished design hints at the intricate natural skeletal structures of microscopic organisms, such as Radiolarians, or zooplankton. 

"Tapping into the way that natural organisms are designed allowed us to create structures with minimal waste, and brilliant structural redundancy, without the setbacks of traditional construction techniques," explains Sarafian. 

To build the 13-foot-tall dome-like structure, Sarafian and his business and design partner Ron Culver envisioned a system of interconnected concrete components that take a natural curve from gravity, much like a hanging cable, only inverted. Once the pieces are connected, they form a dome. 

"Each concrete component is unique, but the steel connectors in between are all uniform, allowing for an easily bolted assembly system," says Sarafian. 

Once Sarafian and Culver had their concept, they reached out to OCC architecture technology professor Fuchs to collaborate on the construction. They also hired two interns — Coast technology student Andrew Lindauer, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student David Spiva — and teamed up with Walter P. Moore structural engineers to help solve the complex structural aspects of the design. After a month of fabrication, the pieces were assembled in three days, creating a visual feast for attendees at the three-day, invite-only March 2017 technology conference. 

Following the MARS conference, the structure was moved to the Architecture and Design Museum in Downtown Los Angeles, where it stayed until early October, after which it was disassembled and placed in storage. Yet, even as the structure's time in the limelight comes to a close, Sarafian and Fuchs  are eagerly looking ahead at the endless possibilities that their technique opens. 

"[We want] to use OCC's Makerspace and robots as a testing lab for future construction applications," Sarafian says. "OCC students will have the opportunity to not only contribute, but to create their own robotic construction techniques to push the boundaries of fabrication.

 Some future development ideas we are exploring include rapid construction for disaster relief and as a housing prototype in developing countries."

To find out more about Sarafian and Culver's work, visit