Material with Many Faces

The following images all have something in common. Take a guess.

The category of this entry should have been a big hint that the commonality among all of the above images is that concrete was used in the creation of each subject. Concrete is a special material. Because its properties have been pushed and tested over centuries, many different methods of use have been achieved. It has the ability to project many faces, sometimes recognizable, sometimes deceptive in its final appearance. Concrete, however is reliant on the support of other materials, processes, or human influence to achieve the many faces that can be observed in concrete objects and structures. That said the above images all have a very unique quality as well.

One particularly interesting example of concrete’s relation with its formwork is in the Bruder Klaus Chapel by Peter Zumthor.

The concrete was formed with a relative banal approach on the exterior of the chapel, however entry inside makes one question if the structure is, in fact, concrete. The interior was formed using a teepee-like structure of raw timber. Only after the concrete was all poured, and the timber all burned from the inside, did the concrete reveal its finished face. The result of concrete partnering with the timber and then the burning of the timber is breathtaking. The concrete in this project is exceptionally tangible, connecting well with human senses. Because concrete takes on so many faces with the help of so many different support materials, one might argue that the beauty of concrete is not in the material itself, but instead in the trace of the formwork materials left behind after the concrete has cured to solid form.

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