Reimagining Concrete: A Material First Design Approach

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    process photos of working with concrete
    Nathan Wang
Nathan Wang

Examining Committee Members

Committee Member
Internal Reader
External Examiner
Robert Cram

This thesis asks the question: “What if we began the creative process of design with material?” In an age where digital images dominate the design process, architecture’s main medium of expression remains through matter. In this thesis, I explore the creative process of design through material fabrication.

A material first design process uncovers and draws out the inherent capacity of materials through direct encounters. For eight months, I trained as a craftsman in an Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC) concrete workshop. This fiber-reinforced concrete has a bending strength many times greater than ordinary Portland cement concrete. It can be cast in thin sections. Yet like ordinary concrete, it transforms from a formless solution to a man-made stone.

Working with my body and the senses I developed an intuitive knowledge of ECC’s capacity and techniques of concrete fabrication. I then applied my design training to find expressions that reveal the nature of ECC. I cast ECC on fabric forms, raped them onto supports in their plastic state, and watched as this fluid material hardened into stone.

Project Date
Critical Matter: Materials, Computation + Craft