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A Meta-Vernacular Approach for Contemporary Load-Bearing Walls

Opus Versatilium

Exhibition opening 2/19/24 to 3/28/24 at Armstrong Gallery, John Elliot Center for Architecture and Environmental Design - Kent State University.

Presented by Pablo Moyano Fernández
Assistant Professor in Architecture
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts ∙ School of Architecture ∙ Washington University in St. Louis

The load-bearing wall has historically served as the primary enclosure and structural component of most durable secular and religious buildings. However, the Industrial Revolution brought about technological advancements that allowed structural frames from non-structural enclosures to be separated, becoming the predominant trend in building construction. Today, questions of building resiliency and the sustainability of materials and resources are challenging the separation of the wall in terms of its structural, performance, and aesthetic properties.

Opus Versatilium (OV) is an innovative casting methodology alternative to contemporary standard concrete practice. The technique hybridizes vernacular knowledge and building construction methods with emerging digital and material technologies. OV advances the load-bearing wall as an efficient, resilient, and high-performance enclosure. The material of choice is concrete due to its strength,
durability, versatility, affordability, availability, and resiliency. Capitalizing on the fluidity of the material, OV mobilizes formwork as an active and accessible design tool and fertile ground for innovation in building envelopes. The design and construction of a bird blind along the Mississippi River was essential to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed method. This applied research tested the possibilities of
delivering performative, resilient, and sustainable building envelopes, employing primarily local materials with low-tech tools and methods executed by non-skilled workers. The system offers an alternative and affordable construction methodology for disadvantaged communities while minimizing environmental impact.




Kent State University support: Mark Mistur, Sung Ho Kim, Jon Yoder, Paul Mosley, and Jacob Wano

Research Assistants: Cindy Wang and Sean Shen


Pablo I. Moyano Fernandez, Opus Versatilium: A Meta-Vernacular Approach for Contemporary Load-Bearing Walls, The Plan Journal, (TPJ vol. 9 [2024], no. 1).

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