Thursday, February 7, 2013

Prototyping Architecture - exhibition and conference

[Image of the fabric-formed concrete column by yours concretely in the exhibition space for Prototyping Architecture. Photo by Agnese Sanvito]

I am looking forward to presenting a paper at the Prototyping Architecture conference in London.  The conference is organized in connection with an exhibition of the same name, which is a collection of a broad variety of architectural 'prototypes' ranging from a 3d printed violin that I am not so certain of how to categorize architecturally, to a 1:1 mock-up of the Loblolly House by Kieran Timberlake, to a number of research objects testing new manufacturing techniques and materials. The field of fabric forming is based on prototyping in the sense that every new experiment is the prototype of material and process.

The first exhibition venue was at the University of Nottingham. I contributed to the exhibition there with the design and production of a prefabricated fabric mold, which I then brought to the site (the prototyping hall at the school of architecture) in a bag , unfolded it there and arranged a concrete pour. In lack of a better name, I refer to the column as the PA Column (PA as in Prototyping Architecture)
[the formwork hanging over the fabric-formed column at the exhibition venue at the University of Nottingham. Photo by Victoria Gaskell]

Here follows the text that accompanies the exhibited object: Fabric formwork is a new construction method for concrete structures that utilizes sheets of fabric as flexible, lightweight moulds. Based on a recently completed PhD project about the architectural potentials of fabric formwork for concrete, the fabric-formed column designed and constructed especially for the Prototyping Architecture exhibitions is the investigation and material prototyping of a lightweight, prefabricated fabric mould, which unfolds to be cast on site. The three-legged concrete column is form-optimized for stability and constructed with minimal means.

The principles of tensioning the fabric, of restraining it, and placing concrete have a direct formal consequence as a material dialogue between relaxation and control; thus the technique encourages an architectural understanding of concrete as material and as process. Essentially the exhibited prototype must then be understood as the formwork, the process, and the concrete object, and the contribution discusses the future of industrialized concrete architecture by emphasizing the prefabrication of intelligent, and lightweight moulds as an alternative to ‘dumb’ and heavy concrete elements.

With the high ceiling of the exhibition venue at the Prototyping Hall of University of Nottingham the mould was exhibited, hung next to the concrete object and details of the sculptural concrete object could be compared with its two-dimensional textile origin. In London, the ceiling is much lower and there was no room for the formwork, which is really a shame for the understanding of the piece as a prototype.
[The homemade flight bag containing the entire formwork structure: wooden braces/form ties, metal clamps, tools, everything besides the concrete mix]

[yours concretely hand-filling the formwork aided by the great student workers in Nottingham]
[Detail of the PA Column after it was moved to the Building Centre in London]

The title of my presentation is Fabric Formwork - Prototyping concrete as material and process - and I better get back to finishing it.
Here's the link to the program of the conference - I'm very excited to go.

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