Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lloyd Wright's textile concrete in Florida

Frank Lloyd Wright developed a 'textile block' construction system with prefabricated concrete tiles bound together to form stay-in-place formwork for placing concrete. He used it as early as around 1920 for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo - which survived a subsequent heavy earthquake with its monolithic structure -  and for projects in California in the 20's, for example the Alice Millard house, La Miniatura, a famous example from 1923.
Below are some images from "Child of the Sun", a collection of Wright buildings from the Florida Southern College that I know very little about but are worth studying. Wright built nine buildings for the campus between 1938 and 1958. So it was great to see and now share a few posts by Nat Chard with images of these textile concrete buildings.
[From the interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Annie Pfeiffer Chapel (1938) at the Florida Southern College. Via]

I enjoy following the blog by the architectural (re)searcher and educator Nat Chard who for the past five years or so has been the head of the school of architecture at the University of Manitoba (also home of CAST). Nat was educated at the Bartlett School of Architecture and was also a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He has been unstoppable since he took up blogging posting about his own research as well as stereoscopic images of art, technique, skeletons, picture planes of dioramas, - and concrete blocks.

[From the interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Annie Pfeiffer Chapel at the Florida Southern College. Via]

"The blocks in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Annie Pfeiffer Chapel at the Florida Southern College are some of his most elaborate, made possible partly through cheap student labour. The blocks have stained glass inserted into them, a combination of a larger L-shaped piece at either end of each block and smaller square pieces along the top and bottom. The inside and outside skin are made of identical blocs, with a cavity in between. The blocks are a composite wall and window." writes Nat
[Thad Buckner Building, formerly the E.T. Roux Library completed in 1945 at the Florida Southern College. Via]

Nat writes: "The blocks are a development of his textile block work in Los Angeles from the ’20s and have similar joint details (I will post some pictures of some of these where the walls have failed). The character of the work emerges though his invention of these building elements. There are abundant technical problems with the blocks (the accelerated decay gives some of his buildings a picturesque quality) but I find them really helpful in thinking through how to make building components that are appropriate to the content of the architecture." Via
[Thad Buckner Building. Via]
[Thad Buckner Building. Via]

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Erwin Hauer at the Standard

While in New York City I went to the roof top of the Standard Hotel to sip cocktails in the sun and with a spectacular view. Some familiar screens greeted me in the lobby and on the roof itself, two iconic designs from the 1950s by the remarkable sculptor Erwin Hauer.
[Detail of Erwin Hauer's Design 5 on the roof of the Standard, photo by yours Concretely]

While these Hauer screens can be found in the hotel rising over the lovely Highline park, another screen is more hidden as described in this post. 
[Image of Erwin Hauer's Design 5 on the roof of the Standard, photo by yours Concretely]

Hauer's website informs that the screens were built in 2009 and are Design1 (1950) and Design 5 (1956).
Below follows more shots from the visit - taking photos of the concrete interior is perhaps not the most glamorous way of sipping cocktails, that said, the screen on the roof is the only thing worth noticing on the roof itself. -( a complete different story is of course the exhibitionist restrooms the story below).

[Nobody pays attention to the Erwin Hauer piece, but the view is ]

[Above and below, connection details between the Erwin Hauer concrete elements]

And below, a few from the lobby, mental note - buy new camera, my smart phone cam really doesn't do it well.
[Erwin Hauer's Design 1 (org 1950) in the lobby of the Standard. (2009)]

[Erwin Hauer's Design 1 in the lobby of the Standard]

[Detail of Erwin Hauer's Design 1 in the lobby of the Standard. This is so smooth and shiny that I wonder if it is polymer or almost a resin or a reinforced plaster of some sort-  my stupid Instagram filter may be pulling my leg here - but the lobby screens definitely have a smoother finish than the concrete screen outside]

Skating Musmeci

A comment for the post on Sergio Musmeci's bridge over Basento river in the Italian town of Potenza, included the link to the cover shot for skateboarding culture magazine 6:00 am. Since I really like the bridge, this offers a chance to post a few more images of it.
[Daniele Galli on the cover of 6:00 am magazine, photo by Fede Romanello, via]

The blogger Lorenzo Bini (Lorebini) had previously discovered this amazing concrete landscape and wondered on the Bastard Blog whether anybody had used it to skate. Skater Daniele Galli picked up on the post and drove south to do it, as shown on the dare devil cover shot above. via
[Image by Lorenzo Bini - follow the link to more images of Sergio Musmeci's viaduct]

I'd love to see more images of skaters using concrete - perhaps discovering new cool concrete 'landscapes' discovered and appreciated from the perspective of the skating culture.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Parameters of investigation

['Beautiful'? Detail of fabric-formed concrete column cast at the Concrete Flesh Workshop at Chalmers (2009), yours concretely with Frederik Petersen and Kathrine Næss]

Parameters of investigation - and of evaluation
Thinking of the headline 'beautifying concrete' introduced here - it is quite interesting that it seems as if mostly architects would ever combine the words beauty and concrete , haha and in fact, I really find lots of the 'experimental data' produced in my workshops quite ugly, but beauty and how it is judged is really not the immediate aim when investigating construction methods at a fundamental level, at least it hasn't been for me, much. The challenge then, is that you need some sort of context to evaluate architectural experimentation. When the assignment for short student workshops deals with the process of constructing new formwork principles, there are little context beyond this, and these principles are then only left as traces on the final concrete object. 
The question is how future student workshop will be when further parameters are added into the investigation of concrete futures cast in flexible molds. I made one attempt when introducing the fabric-formed concrete bench as the assignment - the evaluation from passers-by who now can check out these pieces on the quay behind the school may be a lot simpler now, but the use as research is definitely less clear. The challenge is definitely great to go from open-ended research through design to a different and possibly more direct aim when designing through research...

Concrete futures in the news

[Photo: Colourbox via]
Beautifying concrete
With the smashing headline New techniques can beautify concrete buildings, here's a link to an interview with yours concretely written in the news portal Science Nordic written after defense of my doctoral dissertation. My point in the interview was that new methods of construction demands a new way of discussing the use and the aesthetics of concrete in architecture, well actually, that we have to think of the material's potentials anew.

Here is a link to the Danish version of the article.
For both articles, please disregard the 'fact boxes'...

This next post reflects a little upon evaluating the material 'results' of fundamental architectural research

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The French Sister of the Ambiguous Chair

This summer I received a letter from a group of French students. Using the step-by-step descriptions in the book DIY Furniture Design the students of a technical school in Le Havre had managed to produce a sibling to the Ambigous Chair, we could call it la Chaise Ambiguë.
[Bérénice Martin, Lucie Tramoy, and Édouard Vermès in front of their Chaise Ambiguë]

It was so pleasing to see these guys taking on the task of constructing the chair - it was definitely the more complex of the do-it-yourself examples in the book, and I must admit that I didn't really expect anyone to have a go at it. Now I am pretty sure that these guys may have been smitten by the concrete fever - the active knowledge of constructing with fabric formwork has now reached France and the narrow community of fabric formers has increased with its youngest members yet :)

The point goes beyond my own personal pride but states an example of how to share knowledge of something bound so heavily to the experience of the hand through making. The step-by-step approach is one way and using the scale of furniture to explore principles of construction allows much freedom.

See images of the work process below that follow the instructions in the book perfectly - all pictures by Édouard Vermès, Lucie Tramoy, Bérénice Martin, and Hilly Saint-martin Vincent of Lycée Auguste Perret. Le Havre, France.

[yes, despite its soft looks the chair is heavy]

[La la Chaise Ambiguë]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brief terminology of fabric formwork

For my doctoral dissertation, which I finally defended in July (yipee), I used or developed a number of concepts for the discussion of textile notions and 'concreteness' of fabric formed concrete 'Concreteness' is actually a term I abandon for a tendency to emphasize solely the dichotomy of fluid and solid - instead I invented my own concept, Stereogeneity. Below is summary of this and more key terms:

Concrete and cement
The term concrete is derived Lat. concrēscere, to grow together. The word cement is based on the ancient Roman definition of caementum, a mortar with a binding material for constructing walls. Béton is the term for modern concrete used in French, German and Danish. The word is derived from the Old French betum for a mass of rubbish.(1) See stereogeneity and condition.

The procedures of pouring fresh concrete into a mold, or applying thin layers of fresh concrete
on a surface.

According to the Retrospective Object Theory posed by the Danish artist and Professor Willy Ørskov an art object and its becoming can be understood over time as a series of conditions.(2)

A planar textile structure produced by interlacing yarns, fibers, or filaments. The word fabric is derived from Lat. fabrica, workshop, and the French fabriquer, to manufacture, and describes a  number of fabrications. The sense in English evolved via ‘manufactured material’ to ‘textile.’

Formwork tectonics
The relation and careful joining of between parts and whole of formwork structures. The formwork
tectonics of fabric formwork has the core parts: frame, form tie, and textile. Structuralformwork principles, see structure.

Word derived from the roots of Gr. stereos (solid) and ginomai (to begin to be); describes concrete as a material and a process and is a coinage of the author. The formal definition is suggested as: ‘the expressed manifestation into solid material form of a series of conditions from the construing and construction of structural formwork principles and concreting.’ See condition.

Structure and structural principles
The use of the word is influenced by the use in Danish struktur, from Lat. struere to pile up.
The word covers the linkages and relationships that exist between parts of a whole.(3) The German
architect Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969) defined structure in architecture as a philosophical concept: ’The whole, from top to bottom, to the last detail, with the same ideas.’(4) He saw structural order as a condition where ‘form becomes a consequence of structure and not the reason for the construction.’(5) Structural formwork principles, see formwork tectonics.

Technology and techne
The word is understood through the Greek words techne ‘art, skill, craft, method, system.’combining; and the root of legein ‘to speak’. The architectural scholar Marco Frascari refers to a dual-faced notion of technology because it unifies the tangible and the intangible of architecture.
Rhetorical, symbolic and reflective representations of technology thus refer to the techne of logos; scientific, instrumental and practical representations of technology refer to the logos of techne.(6)

Introduced to architectural discourse in the 19th century, several uses of the word are present in the dissertation: for practical use of tectonic thinking, see structure and formwork tectonics.
Analytical use of tectonics as the expressed manifestation of initial structural principles and the materials and processes,(7) see stereogeneity.

The term originally describes a specific mode of fabrication, to weave; from Latin: textilis, woven,
fabric, cloth. The word refers more generally to modes of construction for textiles. In the dissertation textile is used as a fabric surface, as structure as well as metaphor.

1: Peter Collins, Concrete, the Vision of a New Architecture: A Study of
Auguste Perret and his Precursors, 2nd ed. (McGill-Queen’s University
Press, 2004), 21.
2: Willy Ørskov, “Objekterne - Proces og Tilstand: forslag til en objektteori,”
in Samlet : Aflæsning af objekter, Objekterne, Den åbne
Skulptur, Antology of writings. (Borgen, 1999),
3: “Struktur”, Den Store Danske (online dictionary, Denmark: Gyldendal,
2012),, (Accessed 15-01-2012).
4: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Peter Carter, Mies van der Rohe at
Work, reprint (org 1974). (London: Phaidon, 1999), 9.
5: Ibid.
6: Marco Frascari, Monsters of Architecture (Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers, 1991), 116–17.
7: Sekler, Eduard, “Structure, Construction, Tectonics,” in Structure in
Art and Science, ed. Gyorgy Kepes (George Braziller, 1965), 89-95.

Please reference my dissertation: Manelius, Anne-Mette (2012) Fabric Formwork for Concrete - Investigations into Formwork Tectonics and Stereogeneity in Architectural Constructions, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, School of Architecture.

Prototyping fabric formwork

[Undressing the Composite Column (2010) Concrete, inner formwork boards and fabric formwork jacket, by yours concretely]

Prototype c.1600, from Fr. prototype, from M.L. prototypon, from Gk. prototypon "a first or primitive form," properly neuter singular of prototypos "original, primitive," from protos "first" (see proto-) + typos "impression" (see type). Via

Prototyping Architecture
The architectural prototype is the theme of a exhibition opening at the University of Nottingham in October 2012 and moving to the Building Centre in London in January 2013. The title Prototyping Architecture emphasizes the proces of creating the prototypes and the role of material evidence in the creation of architecture in research and design practices.
Prototyping Architecture places a particular emphasis on research and experimentation showing how trial assemblies can inform architecture. In post-digital design practice the prototype remains a vital means of design development.” via
[The vocabulary of the Composite Column formwork, by yours concretely]
[Detail of the Composite Column]

Concrete as material and process
In fabric formwork 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 highlights an architectural understanding of concrete as material and as process, stereogeneity (a concept coined in my doctoral dissertation).  

Process as prototype
To me the development of formwork principles and the tectonics of the constructed formwork is more the prototype than the final concrete object – but formwork tectonics can obviously only be evaluated as it is filled with concrete.  Essentially the fabric formed 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 development of prefabricated, intelligent, and lightweight molds as an alternative to heavy and dumb concrete elements.

 [Sketch of the prefabricated formwork principle for the Composite Formwork, 2010 - see more here]

Prefabricated lightweight formwork
The exhibition provides myself with an opportunity to further develop the notion of prefabricated lightweight formwork and I am constructing a fabric formwork for a column/wall element. The aim remains the same as for the Composite Column (2010): to use a minimum of materials which doesn't explicitly add formal or surface qualities to the concrete structure. The specialized bits of the formwork will fit in my suitcase and only a few stabilizing elements are needed on site as well as, of course, the concrete.

 The mold is exhibited, hung next to the concrete object and details of the sculptural concrete object can be compared with its two-dimensional textile origin.
[The formwork for thirteen concrete columns fit into three duffle bags, via]

Literally carrying a notion 
The idea of carrying lightweight formwork in a bag has been applied by Mark West on several occasions, for example for Casa Dent in Puerto Rico (2001) designed by the California based Cheng Design. Fabric formwork was in fact also brought to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts by West and his assistant Aynslee Hurdal back in 2007 where they cast three columns. I guess it is somehow appropriate to, literally, bring formwork to a new place.
[Three fabric-formed columns cast by CAST for the Creative Systems Exhibition and Seminar, 2007]

I am exhibiting with Cinark –Center of Industrialized Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Formwork tectonics

In a series of photographs, my friend Signe Ulfeldt has documented formwork-tectonic details right after a concrete pour. Her photos lifts the introductory chapters of my dissertation - but why not share the niceness with the readers of Concretely.
[Image of newly poured fabric formed concrete at TEK1 2011. Photo: Signe Ulfeldt]
For fabric formwork there is a direct relation between formwork design and concrete form and surface. The role of the construction of formwork structures thus acquire careful attention to all details. Yet, the aesthetics of formwork structures while performing its duty supporting concrete is left only as traces or more directly as impactos on the cured concrete structure after the formwork has been removed.
[Images of newly poured fabric formed concrete at TEK1 2011. Photo: Signe Ulfeldt]

Photographic attention

Signe assisted in the making of Composite Column in 2010. In 2011, the last concrete workshop I organized and taught before writing up my doctoral dissertation, and which I will defend two weeks from today...,  Signe exchanged her physical assistance with that of the observer. She focused her photographic attention on the relation between formwork structures and the freshly placed concrete in a series of photographs that I just love. The materials and rhythm of the formwork structures are captured to form graphical patterns of their own. The concrete is still fresh and the fabric is 'sweating' excess mix water. Yet only the image of a masonry tool, above, and the home made 'sewing aggregates', below, refer to the recent presence of the workshop participants and a massive concrete truck.
[Images of newly poured fabric formed concrete at TEK1 2011. Photo: Signe Ulfeldt]
[Images of newly poured fabric formed concrete at TEK1 2011. Photo: Signe Ulfeldt]

Benches on the Quay

The attentive fabric-former may wonder about the extensive presence of timber in the images. Well, the TEK1 2011 was all about benches and the focus upon the use of fabrics as formwork turned out the receive a smaller role than most student groups' desire to design, the assignment for the workshop was a bench for the quay behind the studios of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture. (RDAFASA). You can still come around and enjoy the afternoon sun sitting on some of the results.

Thanks again Signe for the nice work -

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Textile Revolution

[Image of 'textile mats' courtesy and via ]

In an image search for specific images of geotextile, I stumpled upon a post about Drone Landscapes, Intelligent Geotextiles, Geographic Countermeasures on the always interesting BLDBLOG 

This headline may sound far from the present concrete scene. But textiles are of course a big part of the field of fabric forming. Furthermore, an explosive development of advanced technical textiles influences the construction of concrete.
In fabric formwork alone, full-scale prototypes and buildings in fabric formed concrete uses different types of woven polypropylene, also known as geotextiles.
This is the use of flat sheets of fabrics. Another overlapping field is the tectonics of textile structures, and then there is the 'textile', which refers to symbolic aspects and behavior. Such as the image below - definitely 'textile'.

['Textile concrete': A photo by Toshio Shibata via]

I may have posted an image like the above image of a Japanese retaining wall before, but it is definitely a case of 'textile' concrete, (thanks again Josh for that)
Enough talking  - go read the post about computational geotextiles and get back to me if the influence of  really-smart textiles as concrete formwork makes sense. A 'tiny' problem of this concept of course is that much of the smartness is cast in concrete if used as formwork.

Concrete landscape car park

Photo by Claudia Luperto via

Car parks tend to be among the rare examples of fully exposed concrete structures - and, regrettably they are most often so ugly - well, not this one in the Swiss town Herdern by Peter Kunz Architektur back in 1998. I may consider purchasing a car if I could get a parking lot (and car) like this.

I wonder if car owners who park in more beautiful spaces are also better behaved in traffic causing better karma in the streets in general - and fewer accidents? I am certain they are - and this effect alone calls for more ambitious architectural solutions for the enormous amounts of volumes or junkspace constructed for cars in cities...
Photo by Dominique Marc Wehrli via

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fabric Formed Filigree Wall

[Image of newly poured fabric formwork by Thompson Young Design]

Just registered for the Second International Conference on Flexible Formwork (icff2012). It will be very exciting to meet with the fabric-forming crowd!
A friend just shared a link for this project, a fabric-formed wall, by the architectural office Thompson Young Design in Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
Since this project actually seems to have a context, as opposed to all the fabric-formed prototypes made in architectural research labs, it would be great to see images of the finished piece, possible a landscaping feature?

[Preparing the formwork, via  Thompson Young Design]

The prefabricated fabric formwork resembles the principle for geotechnical mattress systems - just put to architectural use.
[Image of 'filter point lining', via Hydrotex]

[Stripping the formwork, via  Thompson Young Design]

Thanks Susanne for the link.
Yours concretely