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How Thomas Edison Tried and Failed to Make Single-Pour Concrete Homes

  • 15:00 - 21 February, 2016
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How Thomas Edison Tried and Failed to Make Single-Pour Concrete Homes
How Thomas Edison Tried and Failed to Make Single-Pour Concrete Homes, Initial Blueprints for Edison's 1908 Patent.. Image via Slate
Initial Blueprints for Edison's 1908 Patent.. Image via Slate

Concrete is one of the most widely innovated and improved upon building technologies in the world. With applications in both pre-fabrication and continuous pouring, the material has become a hot-bed for applications in fabrication techniques, from incredible, monolithic forms, to 3D-printing.

But behind all of the successes, there have been countless failures, including a well-intended innovation by famous American inventor Thomas Edison. Filed on August 13, 1908, Edison’s ill-fated patent was a home that could be built with a single pour of concrete, reports Slate. Although Thomas Edison had previous ventures in concrete, including a cement plant in Stewartsville, New Jersey, as well as several patented improvements in the cement-making process, his venture into concrete construction may have just been too ambitious.

The mold was intended to create the stairs, mantels, ornamental ceilings and other interior decorations and fixtures using a single, cast-iron mold. Initially, the design was meant to be mass-produced, with the mold making an indefinite number of houses, but the ambitiousness and cost of the mold doomed the plan to failure – a builder would have needed $175,000 in equipment before building even a single house.

Even so, the idea was implemented a few times. The material choice left a sturdy, sanitary structure, and though never as cheap as Edison wanted, the old patent is remarkably similar in intent to the 3-D printed or prefabricated concrete buildings of today.

Today, a few of the homes built before the method fell out of use remain standing, including several blocks in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, built for workers at the old Ingersoll-Rand plant. Experiences between these homes vary – some are described as claustrophobic, while others are passively climate controlled, remaining cool in summer and warm in winter.

Find more (successful) concrete projects from around the world below.

Material Inspiration: 10 Projects Inspired by Concrete

Ground Control: How Concrete Reshapes Our Relationship to the Earth

Material Inspiration: 10 Projects Inspired by Concrete

Bartlett Students Develop New Method for 3D Printing Concrete

Concrete: A Cultural History

Prefabricated | ArchDaily

News via Slate.

Cite: Eric Oh. "How Thomas Edison Tried and Failed to Make Single-Pour Concrete Homes" 21 Feb 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/781961/how-thomas-edison-tried-and-failed-to-make-single-pour-concrete-homes/>