3D-printed concrete offers new possibilities when designing the built environment. Make by studio 7.5 are looking for novel industrial applications for their unique engineered code. While they are used to experimenting in-house with printed polymer filament, French industrial partner XtreeE offered the opportunity to work together on a bigger scale, with a commercially-ready means of production. XtreeE’s expertise in concrete and robotics enabled Make to work across borders, transporting intangible, innovative code into the most solid material. Interestingly, the principles remain the same, whether printing a miniature bench in PLA filament, or a human-scale bench in concrete: the material may behave differently, but it takes the same time to print, whether the model is 10 cm or 2 meters long.
As a building material, concrete has earned a somewhat controversial reputation. Tainted by Brutalism, it is often viewed as artificial and not particularly charming: it doesn’t age well, yet is very long-lasting. Unlike other, more natural, building materials such as wood or metal, it never develops a patina. On the one hand, it doesn’t appear particularly human or sympathetic to its human inhabitants. It is almost too ‘perfect’: when cast, all reinforcements are hidden inside, so all evidence that the structure was built by human hands is lost.
Make by studio 7.5 challenged themselves to restore to concrete a sense of integrity and elegance, embedded in its structure. While most familiar concrete surfaces are perfectly flat, Make deliberately developed a structural design that has advantages for both the bench’s visual appearance and construction. The continuous wave path the concrete thread follows gives the bench its stability, but also breaks its surface into small, repeating curves that are softer on the eye. Considerably more tactile than typical concrete applications, the geometry of this bench lends an artisanal touch to this modernist material and to the term ‘form follows function’.
Taking the concept one step further, local communities can be empowered to use their own initiative, to print the urban furniture on-site, on-demand. Make by studio 7.5 envisage local municipalities putting their own stamp on this 3D-printed urban furniture through the use of authentic site-specific materials: dust from local stone quarries is a by-product that can be up-cycled as an ingredient in concrete material. Local materials require little processing or transportation and therefore the environmental and economic costs are lower. Town planners could take advantage of this to embed a true sense of place in these high-tech, low-cost benches, grounding them in an area’s heritage. As the bench design is parametric, it can be easily customized to fit in sympathetically with its surroundings. The chosen dimensions, color and material of the benches can reflect their context and enable them to blend into the unique atmosphere of a place.
Let us know if you are interested in our woven concrete benches.