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