Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome and Goodbye to Concrete

Welcome to Concrete
The town called Concrete, Washington, USA got its name from a large cement company. I sometimes use the photo of the cement silos in the beginning of lectures - it says it all: Welcome to Concrete. 

According to the town's wikipedia entry the population was 705 souls in 2010 and the town just had its hundred-year anniversary. It is quite amusing how two towns were created on each side of the river by the founding of two large Portland Cement plants - one of the towns was called Cement City. The two towns grew together [a little concrete pun: Concrescere in Latin, let's call it the composite city] and got the fitting name Concrete.

Welcome To Concrete by VaultBoy13
[Welcome To Concrete, a photo by VaultBoy13 on Flickr.]
Goodbye to Traditional Concrete
In Arizona, a new sheriff came to town in 2004. The designer-concreters at Gore Design Company really meant it when they started a new business. Below is their 'obituary' to traditional concrete (not the town, I assure you):
["Traditional concrete died in 2004" via]

Traditional Concrete 
27 BC to 2004 AD
"Concrete, as it has been known for more than 2000 years, died in early 2004. Born during the Roman Empire, Traditional Concrete thrived as aqueducts, sidewalks and lawn gnomes

Traditional Concrete, however, met its death at the hands of an unknown assailant sometime during the night in early 2004. Multiple bullet casings were found at the scene and based on the small amount of residual evidence forensic experts believe this could have been the work of a professional

[Police investigation the crime scene where traditional concrete died, via]

Police are currently interviewing witnesses but due to the ongoing investigation cannot comment on specifics of the case. A Phoenix detective, speaking on the condition of anonymity, has indicated that Police have a strong suspicion that Gore Design Co. may have played a part in the assassination. A tremendous paradigm shift occurred in their work shortly after Traditional Concrete’s death, raising eyebrows of both investigators and designers. 

Traditional Concrete is survived by it’s better-looking stronger son, GFRC (Glass-Fiber Reinforced Concrete). GFRC resides in Gore Design Co.’s Tempe, Arizona studio furthering suspicions of involvement of the rogue concrete artisan firm. Any information regarding this case should be reported to the authorities immediately." Via Gore Designs' Website

[In charge with a smoking gun - Eames meets gfr concrete (and ink) check out great images and design here]

Welcome and goodbye for now.
Yours (corny) Concretely

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Floating Concrete- Weaving Shores

Weaving Shores Kissing Buoy is a studio project from the course Formworks at Columbia University that I introduced here
[Concept of floating concrete buys in Weaving Shores Kissing Buoy, via]

The project is a concrete buoy that becomes part of a woven landscape on the shore of the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It responses to the workshop brief to produce 1 and 2 part molds and design a concrete element system that incorporates the specific elements and mode of construction.

[Concrete Prototype, Weaving Shores Kissing Buoy, via]
The concept and the production of a concrete element that floats and interlocks into a 'woven,' walkable, and physically flexible system is a great way to get many parameters at play during the course.

The presentation is also inspirational because of the introduction to reference works and technologies.
[Weaving Shores Kissing Buoy, via]
The idea of fabricating concrete shores is not really that intriguing to me. Giving it a second thought, the need to respond to the rising seas on our warm Globe calls for drastic measures to create adaptable shores. The project also suggests a combination of human recreation and an artificial 'aquatic habitat.'
[Reef Balls, artificial concrete reefs, via]

One of the project's references is work by the Reef Ball Foundation, which is a simple concrete forming method to produce artificial reefs. The aim is to create an  aquatic habitat for the animals and plants who become homeless due to drastic methods of fishing. The concrete reef also works to protect existing natural reefs.

Weaving Shore Kissing Buoy by students: Aisha Alsager, Joanne Hayek, Anne Wei, and Bernadette Ma.

Formworks at Columbia

Formworks is a course taught at GSAPP, Columbia by my new formwork friend Joshua Draper (yes, it is a very cool last name these days, what?).
[JAJI Noise Continuum, via]

Since 2008 the studio class has hybridized methods of casting with digital fabrication
"The ambition is to challenge the repetitive nature of casting and formwork by developing a parametric, dynamic formworks system and produce a series of precast elements using that system. 

Organized around a series of short but intense assignments, students are introduced to 1 and 2 part molds, silicone casting, vacuforming, rotational molding and a variety of casting materials. Students respond with their own system which takes these techniques and systems of organization, assembly and fabrication further." Via

[JAJI is a project that investigates the role of the milling direction(s) in creating form and surface pattern. via]

JAJI project by students: Jennifer Chang, Aaron Berman, Juan Fransisco Saldarriaga, and Idan Naor.

See presentations of work by the Formworks classes: 

Flex Form by Allison Adderley

Building Matters is a blog compiled around the wonderful experimental thesis work of permanent, flexible formwork of Allison Adderley, architecture student at the University of Buffalo in the state of New York.
[Flex Form via]

"Typically, formwork is understood as a temporary building element, often being discarded and seen only as a construction tool, rarely a component of the final design.  This proposal explores the opportunity of employing formwork as a permanent building element, thus incorporating the formal elements inherent in building within the final form itself," Adderley states
[A very 'textile' formwork principle for a permanent formwork principle, "Flex Form" via]

Some of Adderley's formwork principles are permanent, and some 'just' leaves a permanent, formal consequence of the construction principles behind the formwork structure. I share this interest with Adderley in practices of molding and the relation between the mold and that which is molded. Basically, what I like to call 'formwork tectonics.'

Adderley introduces her abstract and theoretical references, Gottfried Semper, Kenneth Frampton, and Gework Hartoonian, and how she uses these theories. In this sense, find inspiration in the blog as a nice way to present rigorous, experimental and poetic work.

Semper's theories of the transformation of textile principles to methods of 'weaving' and 'dressing' facades are evident in the above experiment.

There is also a nice gallery of photos from a visit to the laboratory of CAST at the University of Manitoba. Adderley is obviously inspired by the work at CAST but has found her own way of investigating the roles of the fabric in formwork for concrete.
[Formwork detail, Series3 - Permanent Fabric (Suspension) via]
[Casting Series3 - Permanent Fabric (Suspension) via]

A goal in the abstract is to end the thesis work with a full scale cast, so more appears to come on the blog.
 Allison, I hope to see you at the ICFF2012 (World's Second International Conference of Fabric Formwork) in Bath, (UK) June 2012 :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The textile block - Lloyd Wright vs 3d printing

Here is what concrete could be - or is - if you include the ever expanding group cement based composites to your conception of 'concrete'. And better get used the look because 3d printing has never been cheaper and more available with this new fusible mix. SeatSlug is the first 3d Printed Bench at a Low Cost / Rael San Fratello Architects.

[Image of the G.M Millard House aka La Miniatura, the first of a series of houses where Wright explores the textile block. Via Coletta Design Blog.]

It is also quite the take on the 'textile block', the concrete unit developed by Frank Lloyd Wright for La Miniatura and a series of houses where he explored this notion of a 'machine produced concrete block', perfect like an industrially produced fabric. This particular notion of 'textile concrete' also has quite new perspectives for architecture in the light of the 3d printed project. The 'textile surface' of the SeatSlug is comprised of 230 individual pieces. The textile elements printed for the bench makes me wonder into which form Lloyd Wright's La Miniatura would have been 'printed' today?

Below is via stumpleupon
The cement based polymer has a compression strength of 4700 pounds but cost up to 90% less than conventional fusible powders. Rapid 3d printing technologies have been traditionally used to create relatively expensive prototypes for industrial design or more recently small scale objects with low cost devices.

The promise of 3d printing for usable mass consumed objects seem to have been just around the corner for nearly a decade now. A new formulation cement-based polymer developed by Rael San Fratello Architects in partnership with the University of Washington and University of California Berkeley replaces more expensive powder mediums for large scale objects. The prototype SeatSlug bench is a demonstration project of the potential of the material and 3d printing process to make sophisticated large pieces using low cost, non repetitive objects. The bench is comprised of 230 individual pieces, each developed as a unique shape.

The SeatSlug is based on the shape of the recently discovered flabellina goddardi sea slug and surface inspired by karakusamon patterns, traditional Japanese designs. The unique shape is both functional and collectable with its provocative massing and highly polished finish, possibly with an eye to be built individually for higher end furniture stores or galleries. The manufacture of large scale merchandise as low cost printed objects with hand assembly near the end user addresses the issues of scale and cost of high quality products, which are often not available to market due to restraints in supply and demand.

Via stumpleupon

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stitching concrete

[Concrete Canvas is formed, stitched and watered - and you get a concrete stool. Via]
Furniture and especially chairs have a great scale to test new (or old) material principles at a manageable size and weight and stripped down to essential production details that mean much if not everything to the concept and tectonics of the piece. I enjoy as well how the stool has a recognizable function, the socalled affordance, that make you immediately judge even images based on your own bodily experience.

By now several concrete design pieces have made it to your Concretely blog - [just search 'chair' on this blog to check out a few]. German designer Florian Schmid's stool seem particularly tactile and the production principle is wonderfully easy to grasp.
Below project is via this post on Designboom.
"German designer Florian Schmid has developed 'stitching concrete', a project which has been influenced by the contrasts of the material Concrete Canvas
Concrete cloth is a flexible cement impregnated fabric that hardens on hydration to form a thin, durable water proof and fire proof concrete layer. it combines the softness and warmth of fabric with the stability of cold, hard concrete.
[It looks like felt but it's concrete. Via]
[A rig supports the textile structure as it is formed, sewn, watered and finally cured to be a concrete textile stool. Image via]
To create each stool, Schmid has built a special wooden rack that is used as a mould in which he forms the concrete canvas around it.
The device gives hold to the material during the watering and drying process in which the exposed seams are sewn together with either blue, red or yellow string providing extra stability and reinforcements. Once the stool is hardened, it can be removed from the mould, which always remains the same, but can be adjusted according to the different heights, lengths and widths of the objects."

I think I'll drape and sew myself a concrete summer cabin one of these days ;)
Concrete Canvas is introduced in my blog post 'Shake, drape and bake' here

Thanks, Diederik for sending the link

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Skating superparks and swimming pools

[Scroll through the images below to get to a cool movie I just came across - 
A hint: this image is from California Is a Place]
This post features skaters, or rather two quite different concrete landscapes...
Last month a really large skatepark opened in the public Copenhagen park called Fælledparken. - the project was carried out as collaboration between Copenhagen Skatepark and the city of Copenhagen.
Besides watching the talented skaters who finally have a serious place to do their stuff, your concretely blogger must admire the craftsmanship involved in concreting the smooth concrete landscape.
[Image from Fælledparken Skate Park,
Lasse Kofod from this site]
[From the construction of the Fælledparken Skatepark. Photo from Copenhagen Skatepark]
[poster for the opening of the skatepark]

The blue surface painted on the poster above clearly resembles the water of a gigantic swimming pool. The short movie "The Cannonball" has beautifully gray images of empty swimming pools in Californian suburbia as the venues for a group of skaters who may be among the few who see an opportunity in the financial crisis of the recent years, which have caused foreclosures - and lots of empty pools for these pool skaters to 'surf' in Fresno, California. The concrete reality here is, of course that the empty pools are such clear symbols of the situation; loans that were taken (and offered, of course), as well as just plain overspending. - sigh...
[Image of skater by the pool... so to speak, from the California is a Place blog]
Through the skaters, the movie brings an interesting optics on the recession and on the foreclosure monster as the directors call it on the web site for a whole series of Californian stories - and on this eye for discovering concrete landscaping for four little wheels.

The movie was directed, produced, and shot by Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari.
Without further ado - do watch the movie.

Blog reports processes of fabric forming

I just came across this fine blog by architecture student Richard Bush that collects reflections and and procedures of a group student project about fabric formed concrete at  ESALA (Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture).
[Image of the filled fabric formwork. Image from the blog]

[See the 2 minute video of the entire construction process of a fabric formed concrete structure]

As the blogger Richard Bush has written:
"In the context of our unit’s title Distructive Technology: Material Immaterial – the discussion that formed a critical part of our design process, that now only exists as notes and sketches, represents an immaterial property of a material concrete structure. In the process we have developed a language, a code, to work with this material and discuss its process and potential wtih other people. We have developed an understanding between material and immaterial."

[Image of tailored fabric formwork ready for hanging. Image from the blog]

One of the supervisors of the 5 week student projects at University of Edinburgh is Professor Remo Pedreschi who has edited this great book about fabric formwork along with Alan Chandler.

The first book about Fabric Formwork

I just posted the news of an upcoming book that features fabric formwork. I realize that I ought to share with you this book, the first book about Fabric formwork for concrete, I believe; and that is the title as well, "Fabric Formwork" (2007).
[The cover of "Fabric Formwork" by Chandler & Pedreschi, (eds.). Image from RIBA Bookshop]

The book, published by RIBA Publishing, is not the first publication that features concrete structure cast in fabrics - books about Felix Candela or Christopher Alexander has shell structures cast on suspended burlap. This book I believe however to be the first dedicated to the subject of fabric forming - and it is the first to collect reflections upon the contemporary research in the use of modern textile technologies and concrete.

The book consists of six essays about different aspects of fabric forming, from research methodologies, technical aspects, how to apply an aesthetics of concrete cast in textile as well as a discussion of the possible future of fabric formed concrete in construction.
[Image of 'Wall One', the result of a workshop project done at University of East London and discussed in the book. The image is from a great blog post collecting projects with 'Fluid Aggregates' by Katie Yash]

Despite lots of wonderful images and sketches, this is not your usual coffee table book. - just the fact that one of the more theoretical essays is entitled the Beautiful, the Sublime and the Ugly, which is an attempt to embrace the aesthetic appreciation between extremes in formal and structural expressions in concrete cast in textiles.

The editors of Fabric Formwork are prize winning researcher - Remo Pedreschi of the University of Edinburgh, and Alan Chandler of the University of East London.
The two have collaborated on research projects into fabric formwork and following the publication of the book back in 2007, Chandler & Pedreschi received the RIBA President’s Awards for Research 2008.

Fabric formed concrete chair in print

It's summer and I'm trying to finish writing my thesis on fabric formwork - it's hard work - but something look forward to while working is the launch of a design book that features my Ambiguous concrete chair.
The cover of DIY Furniture, image from the publisher

"DIY Furniture: A Step-by-Step Guide" is edited by Christopher Stuart. Chris has worked hard in getting all the designs together and to finish the book - I'm proud to be included and i can't wait to see the result.

The publisher Laurence King Publishing writes about the book:
"Featuring 30 designs by leading designer-makers from around the world DIY Furniture shows you how to use simple techniques to make stunning designer furniture from scratch. 
Along with designs for seating and storage, the book also features projects for making your own bed, wardrobe, lighting and garden furniture. Each project features hand-drawn diagrams with short, easy-to-follow instructions on how to build the piece. 

All the projects can be easily assembled using common materials to be found at the local hardware store, allowing the reader to create unique designer pieces at a fraction of the normal cost. Brief biographies of all the featured designers are included at the end of the book"

The chair will be among 30 designs that you can make yourself - I bet the concrete chair will be the heaviest of them all.
The Ambiguous Chair - se more images here
Detail of Ambiguous Chair cast in fabric formwork.
Please, do share with me if you get inspired to make your own fabric formed concrete furniture.
Info about the publication:
270 illustrations
144 pages
245 x 210 mm
ISBN 978 1 85669 742 2
Published by Laurence King Publishing, October 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lecture by Mark West

Mark West is the founder of the Center for Architectural Structures and Technology (CAST) at the University of Manitoba, Canada.
West is a pioneer of contemporary research into fabric formed concrete; recently he gave a lecture at ETH, Zürich hosted by the Block reseach group. Thanks to PhD-scholar and engineer Diederik Veenendaal who has sent me the link to the lecture on You Tube.
Above is the link to Mark West's lecture at ETH

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weaving galore

As a remark to the post about the machine park at Swedish School of Textiles, a friend forwarded a link of cutting edge use of weaving, namely the automated weaving of auto parts made from carbon-fibre and plastic.
 As technology blogger, Sandrine Ceurstemont explains in this NewScientist post: 

"It's a sports car few people will be able to get their hands on. In production since last December, only 500 Lexus LFAs will be produced and they were already sold out in early June 2010. But it's not just its top speed of 325 kilometres per hour that's attracting buyers. The car is being used as a test bed for newly-designed parts made from carbon fibre and plastic."

Of interest here, of course – is the key technology used, namely the high-tech circular loom, guided by lasers, that can weave 3D objects – (see the video link above).

Compared to steel or aluminium, carbon fibres make the car stronger and lighter but producing these components is much more time-consuming: only one car is currently being assembled per day.

3D-Woven sails
At a larger scale robotic weaving - or laminating is more the technique, I guess - is used for custom made three dimensional sails for racing boats. (See video link below by North Sails)
[Video of the weaving process of 3dl technology]

Woven architecture?]
When will this technology be used in architectural applications as woven load-bearing structures?? So spectacular - and seemingly achievable (at a 'certain cost'). In the concrete optics of this blog perspectives of producing high strength, low weight structures out of carbon would affect the way concrete structures are reinforced.

Textile concrete at Aachen
A cross disciplinary research project called Textil Beton (textile concrete) at the University of Aachen combines research in textile production technologies with reinforcement technologies of carbon fibres. The project was initiated in 1999 and running until 2012.

The abstract for the part-project Textile production, process and machine development is: For a sufficient and cost-effective reinforcement, a defined positioning of the fibers is necessary. Thus, a geometrically defined design of the textiles, both 2D and 3D, is required.   Aim of this project is the development and investigation of processes, which allow a textile production of non-corrosive reinforcements. Fibers used are alkali resistant glass, carbon and aramide.   Finally the investigation of integrated 3D textiles are focused in this project.

[Diamond lattice, prototype of textile reinforced concrete structure, from 'Insu-Shell']

For now, it seems as if the technology has mostly been developed for matting reinforcement that is flexible in two directions. The thin, non-corrisive reinforcement has been tested in repairing thin concrete shell structures. The technology seem ideal for this purpose because of the minimal required thickness of a protective layer of concrete.

I'm looking forward to more spatially woven reinforcement structures that combine the precision weaving of the Lexus robot with the knowledge of reinforcing concrete. They might be out there already.

Thank you, Jacob for forwarding the video link in the first place.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Computational Composites

To continue from my previous post from the happy day in Borås, I must introduce to you, Anna Valgårda.
I was invited to the Swedish School of Textiles by Anna Valgårda who has her background in computer science and did her  PhD project about the computer as a material. - as a post-doc at Borås she's also the head of the research school in practice based textile research.

Anna introduces her interest at her web site
I study the computer as a material for design. Computers, however, have no expression in and by themselves so in order to study and work with them I develop various "computational composites." The vision is that we through understanding the materiality of computers at some point will be able to work with computers in the same way we work with other more traditional materials like textile, glass, or wood. Current experiments evolve around textiles exploring the possibilities in the various structures of textiles.
 [Recurring Patterns piece, from Anna Valgårda's web site]

Anna writes about the ongoing project that were just exhibited at Salon de Mobile:
These prototypes are part of a larger project in the Smart Textile Design Lab at the Swedish School of Textile where we explore how to use programmable textile expressions in furniture design. What does it entail to design with expressions that change in context over time? What can these recurring patterns do to the use of furniture? What new kinds of furniture can we imagine?

Textile Tectonics

I great while ago I was fortunately invited to lecture at the Borås University, Swedish School of Textiles. The focus of my talk was obviously to be upon the textile aspects of research into fabric formwork for concrete structures.

It's no secret that most ongoing research into fabric forming deal with the forming principles and not so much developing textiles. - but, wow, was a visit to the 'machine park' at the university was overwhelming. It brings layers and layers upon the potentials of Textile Performance into fabric formwork. I'm sorry not to dwell into those aspects and share with you - for now, I'll share some images of machines.

Scroll through the images to get to a little treat of machine poetics:
[3d Knitting machine]
[A computer is aligned with each thread to go into the knit]
[Metal knits at Borås School of Textiles]
[Tube of metal knit at Borås School of Textiles]
[Knit at Borås School of Textiles]

['Section' of knit at Borås School of Textiles]

[Spatial knitting at Borås School of Textiles]

Since you made it here, it's time for a little treat - a movie the depicts the machine poetics of weaving. Thanks to the blogger at textilesmithing who did a post about fabric formwork - and for posting the link to the video...

I was invited to Borås by Anna Valgårda who has her background in computer science and did her  PhD project about the computer as a material. - as a post-doc at Borås she's also the head of the research school in practice based textile research. I've dedicated a post to introduce Anna here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Concrete Benches cast in fabric

Wow, what a while it's been since my last post - well, as for now I've just finished a great workshop with 80 (yes, 80) first year students of architecture and architectural engineering. In a week's time the students had to design and produce a concrete bench: This included designing the formwork principles and building the formwork. Finally the students had to pour the pieces of around 300 liters each (750 kgs of concrete), and finally - strip the formwork and reveal the concrete evidence of the experiments...
[Students pouring the fabric formed concrete bench - and getting advice from the concrete sponsor, Unicon]
Here's an older post with some images of references to benches.

No blow outs
The pieces of this year's workshop weren't super tall - the tallest formwork was 140 cm high. Out of 12 pieces and 4 cubic meters of concrete, we had no blow outs - yipee - this wasn't really the case last year. Formwork pieces were all 2 meters high - and only one student piece survived in its initial state... read more about last years workshop here.

The Clover
Below are some images of the Clover Bench. More info to follow. Enjoy!
['Trekløver', the Clover. Fabric formed concrete bench. Student work at TEK1]
Do I need to say that the focus was on fabric formwork?
Besides being the subject of my research, fabric formwork has great potentials for introducing concrete to students of mostly no previous experience to either pouring or building formwork - in fact building anything yet :)

Formwork tectonics
First of all, building with light weight fabric lets you produce quite large structures just because the weight of the formwork structure is kept down.
More importantly (says the teacher) there's a structural hierarchy in building fabric formwork - an apparent material dialogue to be considered. The material dialogue is between the concrete and the three elements that the formwork is made out of: the frame holding the fabric, the fabric itself, and a restraining method to keep the fabric in tension and control bulges during the pour. 

Formal consequence
When the concrete is poured as an almost ruthless matter the formwork is really put to the test. All choices made during the construction of the formwork results in a direct formal consequence on the form and surface of the concrete.
[Fabric form for the 'Clover' - without the inner form, Student work]

Formwork statics is quite an interesting subject - designing formwork structures the students get a grasp of pure tectonics. Quite simple structural principles may result in striking concrete forms :)

[The funky inner form for the Clover. Students used scrap vinyl flooring to create a smooth surface inside the bench. Student work]

Credits to the members of the Clover team who built the formwork shown above: Alva Altgård, Symra Joner Andbo, Helga Hallgrimsdottir, Rasmus von Wurstemberger Nielsen, Marie Rugholm Nielsen, Andreas Klestrup Hansen. Students study at RDAFA or DTU

The workshop was part of a course held by the Institute of Technology and co-teachers were Johannes Rauff Greisen and Finn Bach