Frontier Drive-In revitalization brings new building techniques to Center

Photos by Mechel Meek The Frontier Drive-In property's new construction includes Quonset-style buildings, yurts and the addition of 3D printed adobe structures.   Artist Ron Rael designed the adobe structures and 3D printing software, along with his team at Emerging Objects, that is being used at the Frontier Drive-In property in Center.   Frontier Drive-In Program Manager Adam Gildar and Antonito artist Ron Rael led a group of Center community members and town officials on tour of the property and the technology being used on the project.

CENTER — The site of the old Frontier Drive-In is the location of a new way to build using technology. On Thursday, July 29, a group of community members gathered at the Frontier property to see the new buildings, techniques and a presentation was given about the progress and the future of the site.

As you drive up to the Frontier, the first thing that catches the eye is the restored Frontier Drive-In's neon sign. This piece of history has been preserved, along with the huge movie screen and the original snack bar building.

All the other structures on the property are new construction, which includes Quonset-style buildings, yurts and the addition of 3D printed adobe structures.

Artist Ron Rael designed the adobe structures and 3D printing software, along with his team at Emerging Objects. The adobe structures will be used as individual private bathhouses with a view of the open sky.

The adobe structures are conical with an opening at the top called an oculus and are “printed” one layer at a time. Each layer is allowed to dry before printing the next.

The printing robot is controlled by a cell phone, which directs the robot on where and how thick to apply each adobe layer, which is siphoned from a mixing tank to the robot arm, and moves in a rhythmic, almost hypnotic fashion.

This combination of traditional, mixed with cutting-edge techniques is Rael’s newest artistic architectural design. Rael is based in Antonito and is well known for his unique art, in particular the art installation of a teeter-totter on either side of the US-Mexico Border Wall. He lives on his family’s ranch, where they have been ranching for five generations.

According to Program Director Adam Gildar of Frontier Drive-In, “Among many accomplishments he’s (Rael) pioneered the use of 3D printing with adobe to create human-scale buildings using ancient and modern technologies.”

The talk and demonstration by Rael was attended by many Center community members and town government officials. Everyone was excited by the demonstration of the robot and the tour of the facilities.

After the demonstration of the 3D printing, the group moved to the old snack bar which is currently under construction. A short talk was given by Gildar, who explained the materials used in construction and the future development plans.

He explained how each material chosen for building was thought out to maximize longevity because of the harsh nature of the San Luis Valley climate.

Afterward, everyone was able to see inside the Quonset buildings and the yurt structures. The Steel Master Quonset buildings and yurts will be utilized as sleeping accommodations. The Quonset buildings are designed similar to hotel rooms with a bathroom and one main room, and each building contains two separate accommodations. They combine a metal structure with warm woods inside and outside.

The yurts have a shared bathroom for two separate “pods” which have five yurts in each pod placed in a circle around a large fire pit. The interiors contain wood floors, a pellet stove and heated floors. The yurt structures have been designed to withstand the harsh winters with two separate layers of canvas.

According to Gildar, “When first opened, the Frontier provided a connection between the remote San Luis Valley and global cultural production. Shuttered for over 35 years, the re-animated outdoor cinema will continue its film heritage, adding innovative guest accommodations and programs in architecture, regenerative food, contemporary art and performance.”

The plans for the site do not stop at the current level. This is the first phase of building, and more structures will be added in future phases with the final build-out to house over 200 guests lodged in a variety of accommodations including RV and camping sites in addition to the buildings and yurts. There are plans in a future phase to also add a stage to the current drive-in movie screen to hold concerts and plays.

Photos by Mechel Meek The Frontier Drive-In property's new construction includes Quonset-style buildings, yurts and the addition of 3D printed adobe structures.   Artist Ron Rael designed the adobe structures and 3D printing software, along with his team at Emerging Objects, that is being used at the Frontier Drive-In property in Center.   Frontier Drive-In Program Manager Adam Gildar and Antonito artist Ron Rael led a group of Center community members and town officials on tour of the property and the technology being used on the project.

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