Comprehensive Studio, Spring 2020
In the last few decades, alterations in concrete’s properties have opened up a large spectrum of innovative utilizations. Today, chemical enhancements and advanced admixtures have resulted in the proliferation of different types, including 3D printing concrete, self-healing concrete, photocatalytic concrete, biological concrete, and smart concrete among many others. Progressiveness in the material composition poses an opportunity to change the perception of a rather primitive material, finding new applications, while making it more accessible, tangible and familiar to everyday users.
Funded by an SFS Teaching Development Grant, CONCRETEskins aims to conduct explorations of concrete through speculative testing, innovative formwork techniques and large-scale mockups. During the semester students investigate, understand, and challenge the possibilities and limitations of concrete as a building material. In the first phase, students decode concrete’s essence and properties through intuitive experimentation with concrete mixes and a variety of formwork techniques. Using concrete as the primary constituent material, the second phase of the studio focuses on its architectural applications through the design of a 30,000 sqft. Mix-use building downtown St. Louis. Attention is placed on the development of a concrete enclosure system informed by strict envelope-related performance criteria, tested as both generic prototypes and project-specific design.
Hence, this studio seeks to a simultaneous research-based and hands-on exploration on this universal material. The proposed mixed methodology builds up on in-depth research through direct experimentation, challenging students to rethink the materialization of traditional enclosure solutions and allowing them to test ideas through an iterative process. The ultimate goal is to acquaint students with concrete in particular, how materiality intrinsically determines the way buildings are made and how they perform.