I have always been fascinated by this amazing material. My interest in concrete lies in its singular unique applications of modern architectural theory and construction practice. These I wish to explore in the following essays
By Ori Rotem (Rittenberg)
I came to this project indirectly. It began in 2003 as an essay for a book about the construction of the Open University project in Raanana, Israel. Designed by master architect Ada Karmi- Melamede, the project is a wonderful, contemporary example of poured in place architectural concrete. As lead architect on the project for five years and then an additional three years as construction manager, I was to write a short essay about the design and construction process. Unfortunately, the book never reached fruition and the draft was set aside.
I have always been fascinated by this amazing material and in 2013 I revisited the draft in an attempt to perhaps use it a base for an article on concrete using the Open University as an example. As part of the revision process, I began researching concrete. This in turn lead to questions and a reexamination of my understanding of not only the technical properties and the process of forming concrete, but more importantly the theory behind the use of this material and its influence on modern architecture in the twentieth century. I realized that as a practicing architect I was fortunate to work for three signature architects; Ada Karmi- Melamede, Asaf Gottesman and Moshe Safdie, all who have explored working with concrete as a driver for their architectural thinking and built works.
My interest in concrete lies in its singular unique applications of modern architectural theory and construction practice; these I wish to explore in this essay
Man-made, plastic, fluid; the versatility of reinforced concrete is most evident when the structural system is demonstrated openly and the finish and methods of its construction are articulated on its finished surfaces. Architecture’s greatest buildings are a result of the celebration of these properties. Spatial qualities are achieved by pushing the boundaries of structure thus testing our perception of materiality and gravity. Like an arch’s powerful esthetic in its simplicity and clarity of purpose, the malleability of concrete and its ability to take on plastic form was an ideal material used to by these great architectural masters when testing out new forms and methods.
The other dimension to the character of a space lies in the quality of its natural light. Achieving balance and harmony through the graduation of the light appropriate to the function and spatial requirements was a desired goal for builders and architects throughout time. The mood of space is delivered by quantitative aspects such as intensity, direction and color of light. The qualitative atmosphere draws an emotional, spiritual response as temperature, radiance, reflection and refraction. These signature buildings were realized by the architects’ ability and in depth understanding of structural principals and construction methods specific to concrete that create an object or space. But it is insights into the human, emotional reaction to these spaces achieved by controlling proportions,materials and most important light that transformed these static objects into inspirational spaces.
Concrete has many names and applications; Ferro, in situ, architectural concrete, poured in place, beton, brut to name a few. In the context of this essay, I refer to concrete in its modern reinforced application. Most interesting, I believe, is the relationship between the development of a man-made material as expressed by the modern architectural movement in theory and most importantly in built works.
The correlation and uses of reinforced concrete as structure’, ‘form’ and ‘finish’ is the foundation of this exploration.
The next chapters will be avialable for download in PDF format soon