Long touted for its strength and versatility, concrete has had an integral role in construction and design as far back as the Roman times. And in recent years, concrete’s potential has reached new heights, with many companies developing innovative uses and applications for the material, ranging from concrete reinforced with bamboo to ultra-porous concrete and concrete cloth.
Held annually, the CEMEX Building Awards recognize architecture and construction projects from around the world that use concrete technologies in creative and innovative ways, with a focus on sustainable design and social well-being. We spoke with three of the architecture firms behind winning designs of the 2014 CEMEX Building Awards to see how concrete influenced their design and why they believe concrete to be an important construction material.
DITTEL | ARCHITEKTEN GmbH has created Pop Up Box, a convertible retail space located in a shopping center in Stuttgart, Germany. With its cube design, the Box serves as a self-contained, customizable presentation area, where retailers can move three of the four pieces to create his or her own sales space.
By day, the concrete facade of APG Architecture and Planning Group's latest project, the Al Aziz Mosque in Abu Dhabi, features protruding elements of Arabic script spelling out the 99 names of God from the Quran. By night though, the 515 square meter facade is transformed, as the concrete script lights up in the darkness. The effect is made possible thanks to the translucent concrete paneling system provided by German-based manufacturer LUCEM.
Perhaps the only material on the architectural market known for its "thirst," ultra-porous concrete is being hailed as the future of urban water runoff management for warm climates. The emerging material reached mainstream popularity in recent weeks thanks to a viral video depicting an apparently ordinary car park absorbing an inordinate amount of water; 1.2 million views later, the video has ignited debate on viability and possible uses for water-absorbent concrete.
Ultra-porous concrete is gaining a foothold thanks to extensive research being conducted by architects and engineers around the world. Known for its rainy climate, daring use of innovative materials and unorthodox architecture, it comes as no surprise that the Dutch city of Rotterdam has embraced water-absorbent concrete for testing.
New York City is replacing one of its 40 salt sheds on the Gansevoort Peninsula with a new, origami-like structure by Dattner Architects at Canal St/West St, along the Hudson River. Once completed, the shed will rise almost 70 feet tall and hold over 4,000 tons of salt in its six-foot thick concrete walls. In response to the complaints leveled against the Sanitation Garage across Spring Street from the new salt shed, Dattner Architects deliberately created a monolithic, crystalline form to contrast the scrim-like façade of its neighbour.
Danish practice aarhus arkitekterne has won a competition to design the new Proton Therapy Centre for advanced cancer treatment in Aarhus, Denmark. As “the most advanced radiation center to date and the only one of its kind in Denmark,” as well as one of only a few in the world, the Centre will undoubtedly become a pioneer in cancer treatment.
Designed from the inside out, the building’s façades are meant to convey the function of the interior, “and tell the story of precision, which is they key component of proton therapy as a form of treatment,” according to the architects. Thus, the atrium of the building becomes central to its orientation, providing not only an axis, but also a source of natural lighting.
Concrete blocks. Ever since manufacturers developed techniques to make them cheaper than traditional clay-fired bricks, concrete blocks have been one of our most ubiquitous construction materials. However, this ubiquity comes at a price: worldwide, the production of concrete accounts for around 5% of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and concrete blocks (as opposed to in-situ concrete or concrete panels) contributes a significant portion of these emissions.
To curb these runaway carbon emissions, a California-based company called Watershed Materials is developing alternatives to the traditional concrete block which uses less cement, dramatically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced; they even have a product in the works which they hope will offer a widely applicable concrete block alternative which uses no cement at all.
Images of Souto Moura Arquitectos' first US project has emerged. Aimed to replace a former gas station at 2715 Pennsylvanian Avenue NW in Washington DC, the five-story red brick and concrete building will feature a ground floor restaurant and eight 2,000-square-foot apartment units with balconies, a gym and penthouse terrace.
As BizJournals reports, the proposal is being pitched by EastBanc Inc. as the new "entrance to Georgetown." The Portuguese architect chose red brick "because it seems to be the most appropriate for this part of the city."
A concrete tree trunk growing in the middle of a commercial street in Tokyo, an airport terminal that looks almost like a bird’s wing, a skyscraper facade that seems to move like ocean waves, a visitors’ center perfectly integrated into the landscape of Taiwan’s largest lake – nature is everpresent in Japanese architect Norihiko Dan’s buildings. His architecture never stands alone, for Dan always seeks symbiosis; this appears in his combination of geometric-archetypical with organic forms, in his urban planning projects, which bring submerged historic and cultural identities back to light, as well as in the ecological orientation of his buildings. With dramatic contrasts in architectural language and choice of materials Norihiko Dan insistently calls for a relationship between human beings and their surroundings.
Concrete polarizes opinion. Used almost universally in modern construction today, it is a material capable of provoking intense loathing as well as stirring passions. Its development can be traced as far back as Roman times. However, it was in the twentieth century that its full capabilities became realised. Over the past 100 years architects and engineers have seized upon the possibilities of concrete enthusiastically. Its widespread use in almost all building types we experience has given it a significance and meaning that has - for better or worse - leapt beyond buildings into politics, film, literature and art.
In 2007, when the late Mayor Thomas Menino announced his intentions to demolish Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles' iconic Boston City Hall, he gave voice to a tragic but all-too-common popular discomfort with midcentury concrete architecture. Concerned that this threat was only the latest symptom of a pervasive misunderstanding of the significance of the concrete tradition, three architects - Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo - joined forces shortly thereafter to launch "The Heroic Project" and share their appreciation for this unfairly maligned chapter of architectural history. In addition to creating an internet web archive, Pasnik, Grimley, and Kubo jointly authored a forthcoming historical survey, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, scheduled to be released by The Monacelli Press in October 2015, which recasts the cultural and political story behind America's concrete heritage.
Last year, for the centennial of the publication of Le Corbusier's design for the Maison Dom-Ino, Space Caviartraveled the length of the Italian peninsular in pursuit of ninety-nine reinforced concrete houses. Along the way they created ninety-nine short films. Their research, a survey of Italian domesticity and its relationship to the surrounding landscape over the past century, demonstrated that "few inventions have been as transformative of Italy as the concrete frame": simultaneously a symbol of wealth "generated by a building industry that rebuilt Italy from the rubble of the Second World War" and "the primary instrument of abusivismo," or the unregulated construction on the landscape. It is, as the team describe it, "the ultimate symbol of the architect’s extraordinary power — and enduring helplessness."
Exhibited at the BSA Space as part of the Boston Design Biennial in 2013, Matter Design's Helix is a concrete spiral staircase that is full of surprises. Chief among these is its size - the stair was built at half-size to address the practical issues of weight, liability and access - but more important are the details of its assembly. While the steps of most spiral staircases are supported from either the stair's perimeter or a central column, Helix transfers loads directly through the steps below to its base which, rather than resting on the floor as it appears, is in fact suspended from a beam in the ceiling.
Since the beginning of the Modernist era a century ago, concrete has been appreciated by architects for its strength, versatility and sculptural potential. For many countries, concrete played a key role in their recovery from the Second World War, and in their continued modernization during the second half of the 20th century. But in recent years - while it is still as widely-used as ever - concrete has fallen on something of an image problem, with criticisms of its environmental impact and its aesthetic appearance becoming commonplace.
That hasn't stopped some companies continuing to innovate with concrete. Among these companies is TAKTL, a facade panel designer and manufacturer that works exclusively with Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC). To find out what UHPC can offer to architecture, ArchDaily spoke to TAKTL about the potential of this material, and the future of concrete construction.
Since its creation in the first half of the 20th century, the LEGO brick has come to be used for much more than its original purpose as a children’s toy.
We’ve seen LEGOs used to create replicas of classic architecture, urban interventions, virtual games and even an entire house. Now, a new video highlights the bricks’ potential as a formwork for creating furniture. The bricks' ability to be easily assembled and disassembled makes for an efficient and easy-to-create formwork, which when filled with concrete and left to set creates these incredible, textured nesting tables.
Watch the video above for a tutorial on making the tables -- does anyone dare try it themselves?
Tadao Ando has unveiled his first New York building. An “ultra-luxury” condominium project known as 152 Elizabeth Street, the 32,000-square-foot building will replace an existing parking lot with a concrete structure comprised of seven residences - all of which will be “treated as custom homes” and “individually configured.”
“Part concrete, part jewel box, the building makes a strong yet quiet statement with a façade comprised of voluminous glass, galvanized steel and flanked by poured in-place concrete and a living green wall that rises the height of the building,” says the architects. The green wall, measuring 55-feet-high and 99-feet-wide and spanning the entire southern façade, is expected to be one of the largest in New York and will be designed by landscaping firm M. Paul Friedberg and Partners.
Concrete beams are suspended in midair by load-bearing glass walls, inverting the traditional structural hierarchy between the two materials and allowing uninterrupted river views. Read more about the project and view selected images after the break.