Thursday, March 28, 2013

New concrete love from hinsidan (Sweden)

I’m really excited to share with you some really old news. Casting in membrane molds has been done before. The interesting aspect of this fact arises when the old practice hits your radar. Today, mid-1960’s work by Swedish artist Lars Englund hit my radar and blew me away!

[Image of Swedish artist Lars Englund in a concrete factory in Gröndal, 1967. via]

It is a thrill to browse through (web)pages of a long sold out mastodon catalogue of his 2005 exhibit at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. For the fabric formwork experience it is obviously his work Volume 1964-67. The images shown here are from the artist’s web site and show piece made from materials such as rubber, plastic, concrete, and even bronze.  The pieces are thus inflated (rubber) and cast as positives or negatives over either flexible membranes, plastic sheets (?) or solid casts.

[Images of the Volume series, 1964. top "Tool for Volume", plastic, and bottom "Volume" in bronze. Via]

Space, architecture, sculptural form
Born in 1933, the artist has had a long carreer exploring scales and techiques that bridges space, architecure, and sculptural form. His work is exciting for the Concretely blog because he combines organic formal language with geometric abstractions (as described here, in Swedish)

“Lars Englund went his own way when he, like the American 1960s minimalists was inspired by the new industrial materials. When his organic forms met rubber, plastics, carbon fiber and concrete he created works that still seem hyper-modern. The materials have always been allowed a life of their own in Englund’s art, from the early swelling rubber volumes to the sensual experiments in plastic and spring steel.” Via

[Lars Englund at the Trelleborg Rubber Industri, 1965]
[Volume, rubber, 1965]

Structure, space, material
Originally coming from the world of painting, he transferred his ideas to the three-dimensional realm, and yet line remains a decisive element in his work. It defines a corpus by making visible the limits that mark its separation from its surroundings, thus placing emptiness and space in a tense relationship to one another. In so doing, he repeatedly seems to question in a frame visually perceptible to the beholder what and how much (material, for example) is necessary to make the limits of space visible. Here, Englund not only raises questions about an aesthetic engagement with the subject of space and the void and a dialogue with the surroundings, but also opens the field for questions on the importance of space and limits in the territorial context. An additional facet is the philosophical dimension of “empty space” in the sense of leeway or room to develop in every sense. His work thus reveals a sensitive topicality and offers delicate room for interpretation, without having to stand at the foreground, for his reduced vocabulary of forms is striking in its clarity and unobtrusiveness and operates independently. Via
[Surface Support Structure, small sphere, 1968-74. Via. The Swedish title of this series is Bärverk, which could translate to grid structure or system. Verk, however means 'work' as both action and structure]
[Surface Support Structure, detail, Huddinge Hospital, 1973]
[Bärverk: Prototypes and sketches for Spatial Surface Support Structure are presented at Galerie Burén in Stockholm in 1974]
[Bärverk. Studies for Surface Support Structure, the Torpedo workshop, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm, 1970s]

Pardon the art gallery talk. Yours Concretely is a formwork nerd and I love the temporary spatial aspects of formwork structures before a pour. A part of creating space is to construct it. Constructing fabric formwork structures (not that I am talking about the actual formwork and not the concrete) can be about creating simple means and simple formwork-tectonic principles and then testing them against the concrete pour.
[Volume, plastic concrete, 1967. I think this piece must consist of concrete elements and not inflatable rubber but who knows... A contemporary version of this can be seen in Andrew Kudless' Seed P_Ball]

So—I love Englund’s playful focus on tectonic structures that combine various materials and levels of control and deformation. They are structures in space and they have themselves an inner space with degrees of materiality, transparency and rigidity. - do go explore sketches, prototypes and art pieces at Englund's extensive website.

[Pars pro toto, polycarbonate, 1979. Via]
Thanks again to my NYC formworks friend Josh Draper for the link to your Swedish dobbeltgänger.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lecture: Prototyping concrete as material, process, and context

The fine people at the Building Centre in London who hosted the conference about Prototyping Architecture, have posted videos of the presentations at their Vimeo Channel.

Below is a link to my own lecture, which is titled "Fabric Formwork - Prototyping concrete as material, process, and context."

The presentation was recorded at the Prototyping Architecture Conference, The Building Centre, 21 February 2013

Here is a link to the proceedings from the conference Prototyping Architecture. Be careful - the 'e-book' is in fact a 465 page pdf. The paper on fabric formwork is the very first and should be easy to locate. Look into the many interesting papers!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Workshop - Draped Concrete in the Rotation Column

This Rotated Column was designed by students and constructed during the last weeks' TEK1 workshop at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture

[Rotated fabric-formed concrete column]

 It is easy to see the principle behind Rotation Column: the formwork tube is rotated to create a spiral shaped column. The top and bottom are rigid boxes to supply contrast.
The formwork membrane is attached to the top and bottom and furthermore zip-tied to the reinforcement inside.

[Detail of the formwork before the pour. The series of wires is actually a very simple and strong way to make a seam in fabric formwork. The to ends are rolled up and pinched with twisted metal wire or zip-ties]

 While the team had already tested the principle in several plaster casts where the fabric got stuck in the plaster, they kept this principles and optimistically hoped that the concrete would not react the same way at the large scale.

The team had to use a heat gun to strike the formwork stuck in the concrete. At the end a wonderfully soft-looking column came out.

The Rotation Column (Draped Concrete) was part of the TEK1-concrete workshop in 2013.
Members of the Team: Alexander Egebjerg, Aron Wigh, Markus Nilssen Kinstad, Albin Arvidsson, Lea Møller, Dahlia Dudas
Supervisors: yours concretely, Finn Bach and Tenna Beck

Fabric-Formed Concrete Columns

Just finished a wonderful workshop with first-year architecture students at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. The theme of the workshop was columns.
In the past four years I have organized and taught a number of similar full-scale workshops but never written much about the workshop frame. This post will go through some of the thoughts behind the elements and activities of the workshop.
[The family of fabric-formed concrete columns]

[The formwork structures on pour day with the concrete pump in the background]

Studying concrete in relation to its mold
Concrete is studied best in relation to its formwork, as material and process. The use of fabric formwork is an excellent tool to introduce concrete and formwork principles in order to enforce an individual and curious understanding of what concrete and the process of casting is all about.
The concrete workshop is a highlight of the TEK1 course, a mandatory four-week course about architectural technology. This year, 35 students (a quarter of the class) were in my workshop. 

The theme of the workshop was columns. As the most basic structural and architectural element the column is loadbearing as well as the defining space. The student's approach varied greatly. And their focus sprung from either the textile principles of draping or sewing, or principles of the construction process and how to use minimal means and simple process to construct their formwork.
For a fabric-formed column the main objectives of the formwork is a) contain concrete, b) stay in place (erect), c) additional sculptural features. A and B remain the crucial aspects but the point is, of course, that by erecting the formwork structures in a clever way, the formwork-tectonic principles also have a direct formal consequence on the concrete column. Furthermore, the closing detail or seam of the fabric is important as well. Basically, focus remains on a few important details and their effect - as ornament or as 'invisible'

Afternoon 1: Brainstorm
First step in our workshop is a one-hour brainstorm. At this workshop, 6 groups sketched and played with fabric for an hour after which we have a short pin-up. The point is that by sharing these initial ideas creates a pool of knowledge as well as a number of themes and categories to discuss. Themes of concrete's sculptural form, textile notions, and design principles derived from construction become clear from discussing the sketches and ideas. Looking back now it seems that this initial categorization of approaches has helped the teams to remain clear - at least the themes are pretty clear in their work, anyway.

Afternoon 2: Plaster
The workshop is all much about making. And about making something fast. 
A great way to make decisions and learn from principles in fabric formwork, is to do small scale casts in plaster. This is a method practiced at CAST and it works really well in the student workshops. For this workshop we had a plaster lab allowing us to mess around with plaster and the student teams were super enthusiastic, playful and productive.
[Detail of plaster cast in a fabric mold with impactos]
[learning by doing, casting plaster in fabric molds. The blow-out experiences are much nicer to experience first at a smaller scale]

[Selection of plaster models cast in a few hours]
Day 4: First Concrete mix and pour
As a way to change scale and focus from plaster to concrete, it was fun and appropriate to build simple formwork frames as well as mixing and placing concrete, heavy as it is. Each team had their plinth and were given U profile reinforcement to place according to their column design.
It turned out excellent to leave the formwork boards on the foundation during the entire workshop. In this way the column formworks could be fastened to the ground. 
[Students placing concrete mixed in the mixer in the background. The wooden formwork boards allowed the teams to attach their formwork bracing]

Constructing full-scale formwork structures
Producing several plaster casts allows teams to discuss construction techniques as well as the expression and geometry of their finished column. The full-scale work entails a different and much more material oriented approach. One team wanted to stitch their formwork together and had to devise a special needle tool to do it at this large scale, with a thick nylon rope, and in a controlled manner.
[Student group discussing their principle of stitching as an element of formal and technical form tie or restraining]
[The stitched formwork. The column becomes more like a wall or at least a double column]

[Over the top but great. Our 2 cubic meters of concrete came with a pump as well as a truck. The 'pump man' was the coolest and a very patient guy]

[Concrete fever - Keeping cool and waiting for concrete]

[The rope remains embedded in the concrete. The team managed to remove the fabric around the stitches]

The concrete factory Unicon sponsored the concrete pour
We received cement from Aalborg Portland to mix and pour the foundations
Supervisers and organizers: Anne-Mette Manelius (yours concretely), Finn Bach and Tenna Beck.
Stitched Column (Betonsyning) team: Agnes Garnow, Marcus Innvær, Mikkel Kühnel Witthøfft, Alexander Kristensen, Rasmus Feddersen, Michael Brandrup