MATERIAL FOCUS: Liverpool Villahermosa

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When looking to modernize the aesthetic of the Liverpool department store in Tabasco, Mexico, the store relied on an innovative idea from architect Iñaki Echeverria. Focusing on the façade to create a new face for the store, Echeverria drew from Tabasco’s tropical climate with sever sun and high humidity and chose to work with concrete to resist this climate but also chose to use it in a way that would create a light, airy, and open feeling.

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Another concern was to accelerate the building assembly. Forms as well as formwork materials were explored through a highly iterative research and design process. Fiberglass, sand, and concrete were all tested as formwork options and eventually concrete was chosen. The form evolved to a propeller like shape that twists 180˚ allowing visibility through the façade in a diamond shape that occurs from the repetition of the propeller along the façade. Five different propeller forms make up the façade which allowed for variation and pre-fabrication.

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The sense of movement created through this varied repetition of the 5 forms can be experiences up close with each individual propeller, or as a whole by driving by in a car. What struck me the most about this material wasn’t this sense of movement but an application that gave such a new meaning to concrete. Typical associations with concrete are often heavy, bold, load bearing, and of the earth but this application is quite the opposite, evoking feelings similar to material associations with fabric. The twist of each propeller and the way the light plays along these twists make me expect them to blow in the wind slightly as if they are stretched fabric.

But they are not fabric, they are concrete, which is another reason they struck me. There is such a rich history of the exploration of concrete in Mexico and similar climates and each propeller here seems to nod to Felix Candela’s hyperbolic play with concrete in a new, innovative way.

Images and information sourced from:

http://www.archdaily.com/261204/liverpool-villahermosa-inaki-echeverria/

http://inhabitat.com/liverpool-villahermosa-department-store-gets-a-twisting-concrete-double-skin/

http://inakiecheverria.com/2012/08/13/liverpool-store-now-open-facade-designed-by-architect-and-landscape-urbanist-inaki-echeverri/#more-2546

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