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Concreteworks fabricates a Hauer-inspired concrete screen for a residential West Coast architect.
Oakland, California–based design and fabrication studio Concreteworks has crafted custom concrete products—bath fixtures, commercial and residential surfacing, outdoor furniture—for more than 20 years. In the last three years, the company has branched out into “lab projects,” in which the 30-member workshop models and mills concrete into three-dimensional architectural features. It does so without the aid of specifications from the designer. “We solve the design issue and the technical requirements,” creative director Mark Rogero told AN.
Interior architect Michelle Wempe of Zumaooh discovered Concreteworks’ advanced capabilities in the company’s showroom and was impressed enough to incorporate the work in a residential project she was working on in Sonoma. Though her original design did not include it, Wempe asked Rogero to develop a custom patterned architectural screen at the terminus of a hallway between a living area and private quarters. “We got a lot of inspiration from Erwin Hauer’s work, and the client contributed some images of a 2D cross that is a symbol of peace in some parts of the world,” Rogero said.
Working in Rhino with a Maya plugin, the Concreteworks design team began building a digital model from the client’s 2D image, extrapolating it to resemble the work of Hauer. The 3D form emerged as two identical crosses woven together at a 90-degree-angle, alternating between horizontal and vertical orientations. Digital modeling further revealed that the team’s initial sizing of the components was far too large. Originally 12 inches in length, the cross components were reduced to 9 inches in order to fit within the install location.
Concreteworks 3D-printed two of the crosses and used these to make two rubber silicon molds. For the next 28 days, the fabrication team used fiber reinforced, ultra-high performance concrete to cast four crosses per day until all 112 components had been formed. The most advanced concrete mix available was used in order to accurately render the delicate details and gentle curves of the mold.
The fabricators cast a hole in the center of each piece and threaded them, like beads, on a tensioned steel rod so the final assembly resembles a spine. “It was for a residence so we don’t anticipate a lot of wear, but it does have some flexibility,” Rogero said. The crosses were stacked vertically from bottom to top, and secured to the base with epoxy. A concealed turnbuckle at the top applies tension to each rod.
Though Concreteworks’s lab practice is in its nascency, it has yielded great success for the design studio and its clients. “Normally people come to us for custom products that we already know how to make,” Rogero said. “But now we’re offering a service that can accomplish goals for the design community when they don’t know how to do it themselves.”