Material Focus: Concrete in Transformation

As architects like Marcel Breuer embraced the aesthetic of concrete in the mid-20th century, the material transcended its utilitarian origins well beyond what could be considered a trite ornamental or decorative function. Nods to concrete’s liquid/stone dimorphism and its unique formation processes began to integrate with its structural capabilities, with the finished product serving as a record of its past and present condition.

Villa Drusch, a home in Versailles by architect Claude Parent and a prime example of his Architecture Oblique movement, serves as a thoughtful play on concrete’s structural tradition and material qualities. The architect begins with a rectilinear concrete frame, often a banal signature of universality in modern architecture, and tips it on its edge. This move, with the home now jutting dramatically from the ground, transforms the mundane into a dynamic, solar-oriented structure.

Further, the heavy frame encloses a living space that is itself airy and light-filled, and concrete breaching this interior spaces is treated appropriately. The softened curves of board-formed concrete line a wide skylight, dematerializing what we’ve come to expect as an imposing and massive slab ceiling. The overall result in Villa Drusch is a home that challenges not only the structural preconceptions of concrete in the 1960s, but its character and emotional capacity as well.

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