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Choreographing Flow

A Study in Concrete Deposition

Time: Tue 2021-06-15 16.00

Location: Videolänk:, Du som saknar dator /datorvana kontakta Birgitta Brunström / Use the e-mail address if you need technical assistance, Stockholm

Subject area: Architecture, Architectural Technology

Doctoral student: Helena Westerlind , Arkitektur

Opponent: Professor Marcelyn Gow, SciArc

Supervisor: Gästprofessor Hélèna Frichot, Arkitektur

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The traditional use of concrete in architecture is fundamentally conditioned by the inverse relationship that exists between material and formwork. When poured into a mold, a homogenous mixture takes the shape of its container. More detailed adjustment of the structure of concrete, however, is not possible. As a result, concrete appears to constitute a uniform soild mass; this is one of the material’s most distinct traits. In comparison, the process of shaping concrete by deposition signifies a fundamental departure from such conventional formwork-based techniques. Rather than relying on the constraint and control imposed by a rigid mold, deposition employs a computer-controlled machine to deposit material along a programmable path. The singular operation of the pour is thus replaced with a dynamic, choreographed flow, in which the role of the line shifts from representing the perimeter of the form to constituting the path along which the material performs.  

In addressing the main research question—How can concrete deposition lead to new ways of thinking and making architecture?—this thesis proposes that the shift from casting to programming concrete represents an opportunity for reevaluating values and conceptions that have shaped our understanding of concrete as a monolithic and uniform building material. In seeking to develop an alternative to traditional formwork-based construction methods, the research proposes that concrete deposition opens up new potentials for extending the resolution of design to encompass material distribution at a previously impossible, intermediate scale: the meso scale (10-2–10-1 m). Elaborating on this main research question, the thesis specifically asks how choreographing the flow and distribution of concrete at the scale of the deposited filament can lead to the production of intricate and porous material structures, something that was previously unfeasible due to the limitations of the mold. 

The thesis is divided in three main parts and consists of seven chapters. The first part (Beginnings) outlines the aims of the investigation and provides a background to the research questions. The initial chapters present an overview of the research field and the theoretical and methodological framework employed in the research. In the second part (Projects), the main research question is broken down and addressed in three projects related to the preparatory processes of mixing, testing, and stitching. The third part (Synthesis) presents a discussion and a conclusion. The Appendix contains a catalogue of stitches.