Concrete construction has been an important part of architectural practice since the Roman Empire. Extremely malleable, fluid concrete is capable of being poured into almost any conceivable form. In theory, this makes it an ideal building material. In practice, however, creating complex forms out of concrete is extremely inefficient. Pouring on sight requires formwork that is painstakingly made by hand, and precast concrete is usually limited by orthogonal molds. Concrete has become restricted to a few simple forms that are easy and cheap to produce when, in many cases, a building would benefit from concrete casting that is optimized for its structural and economical needs. How do we make such optimization feasible? This is the question that the EU sponsored TailorCrete has attempted to answer. A research consortium lasting for four years, TailorCrete is exploring new technologies that could make non-standard concrete structures commonplace.
Walkability, density, and mixed-use have become key terms in the conversation about designing our cities to promote healthy lifestyles. In an interview with behavioral psychologist, Dr. James Sallis of the University of California San Diego in The Globe and Mail, Sallis discusses how his research reveals key design elements that encourage physical activity. In the 20th century, the automobile and new ideals in urban planning radically changed the way in which cities were structured. Residential and commercial areas were divided and highways were built to criss-cross between them. Suburban sprawl rescued city dwellers from dense urban environments that had gained a reputation for being polluted and dangerous. In recent decades, planners, policy makers and environmentalists have noted how these seemingly healthy expansions have had an adverse affect on our personal health and the health of our built environment. Today, the conversation is heavily structured around how welcoming density, diversity and physical activity can help ameliorate the negative affects that decades of mid-century planning have had on health. Sallis describes how much of a psychological feat it is to change the adverse habits that have developed over the years and how design, in particular, can help encourage the change.