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Wednesday, October 1

6:30–8:00 PM

Welcoming Remarks and Introduction to Conference

Mark Wigley
Dean, GSAPP, Columbia University

Bruno Lafont
Chairman and CEO, Lafarge

Keynote Lecture

Steven Holl
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

Thursday, October 2

10:00–10:30 AM

Welcome, Introduction, and Structure of the Conference

Mark Wigley
Dean, GSAPP, Columbia University

Christian Meyer
Chair and Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University

Michael Bell
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

10:30 AM–12:00 PM

Plastic Material = Plastic Space

Moderator: Michael Bell
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

If concrete has virtually constituted a material history of the antique city and its infrastructure it is also understood and referenced by an often narrowly received history that presents its links to modern urbanization and metropolitan life as inevitable, robust, and vigorous. Concrete in this regard is fundamentally central to modern architecture and to the modern city. Based in the work of Auguste Perret, reinforced concrete is, however, situated as a rational, pragmatic material that is also given tenuous balance and tremendously delicate installation: it is pushed to limits of structure, formwork, and execution and it weaves between the rationalized aspects of a modern society and the traces and signifiers of historical programs and building types such as the basilica. Perret showed a deeply restrained relation to the plastic aspects of concrete that are commonly known in the work of Le Corbusier. Plasticity of form and the rationalization of construction dominate architectural thought in the 20th century and Le Corbusier’s architecture made both cases emphatically, but there were hybrid directions that were more often tenuous and they bear renewed examination in light of new advances in concrete today that show it to be a material of more technical refinement. Giuseppe Terragni’s work in concrete replaced an expected robustness with a severe and thinned surface planarity easily associated with Mies van der Rohe’s work in glass, marble, and/or travertine. Richard Neutra’s Lovell Health House (indeed his entire career) fused light steel framing technologies with similarly planar readings that made concrete seem as planar and as liquid as glass in his work. His Lovell Health House was a hybrid structure of steel stiffened by the diaphragm action of concrete. Terragni and Le Corbusier both used ferroconcrete for thinner, more planar installations–in stair balustrades and other details–narrowing the wall from the normal robust installation in structure or building volume. Today can these be seen as precursors to new problems in concrete: are the histories of concrete too narrowly understood and can they be reopened to provide new tributaries? How, for example, do concrete and construction materials integrate with other systems today and those from the outset of the 20th century? How are concrete works dismantled–is there innovation in the expected life span of materials that affect design? Do we still expect material properties to affect space in architecture and engineering; how is material understood as plastic and expressive? What constitutes a material’s limits?

Le Corbusier worked in concrete for an entire career. Mies approached a quasinihilism in his arid a-plastic spaces realized in steel, glass, and quarried stone– he did not pursue concrete after his early works, but his work represents an instrumental role of measure, calculation, and precision of tectonic expression that seems more central today then ever. For all its weight, concrete has almost always been simultaneously an indicator of empty space–by way of surface and volume, and at times of lightness (as in the work of Perret). These ideas are renewed as we reexamine concrete not only as surface and form but also as integral to and coordinated with other materials; as composites that are not so much assemblies but alloys–new materials in total with new potentials.

Preston Scott Cohen
Gerald M. McCue Professor in Architecture and Chair, Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Neil Denari
Professor-in-Residence, Department of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California, Los Angeles

Detlef Mertins
Professor of Architecture, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Pierluigi Serraino
Architect, Anshen+Allen Architects San Francisco

12:00–1:30 PM


1:30–3:00 PM

Formwork: Building a Building Twice

Moderator: Mabel Wilson
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

Advanced work in the chemical makeup of concrete allows new methods of formwork and newly extensive pours. Yet to build in concrete is still to build twice: one builds the formwork prior to the pour. What aspects of formwork change in light of new concrete mixtures? What evolutions in formwork such as precasting or lost formwork have greatest implications for our work? At the small scale, formwork is often literally rented and relocated from site to site. Does the formwork constitute an absent origin–the trace of a once immense outward force–or is its significance less critical than in previous generations? What aspects of formwork can be seen as essential and/or intrinsic to the work –how is it designed and understood as a temporal medium versus an unacknowledged pre-structure?

What role will cementitious structural insulated panels play in future work–in relation to sustainability but also to labor, organization of construction, and architectural space?

Angelo Bucci
Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo, Universidad de São Paulo

Fernando Menis
Architect, Fernando Menis, Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Stanley Saitowitz
Emeritus Professor of Architecture, College of Environmental Design, University of California at Berkeley

Hans Schober
Engineer, Schlaich Bergermann and Partner, Stuttgart

3:15–5:00 PM

Concrete Technologies: New Forms of Flow and of Time

Moderator: Antoine Picon

Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
Still recent advances in the workability and flow properties of concrete dramatically alter what we can achieve in concrete construction and design. Self-consolidating concrete has revolutionized the field in recent years and these changes coincide with concepts of flow in a wide range of disciplines.

Woven into existing circumstances, concrete requires focus, precision, and an ultimate willingness to see the work last–it is not a temporary material and its execution requires a view to what will likely be the next century. How do we measure doubt and apprehension in light of a long-lasting material? What concepts of flow present in the formation of concrete can be applied to themes of use, space, or the other aspects of the life of the concrete building?

What role do new technologies–be they of or aside from concrete–offer the concrete work produced today? How was concrete understood in the early part of the 20th century as an attribute of technical achievement and/or a political device and what do these trajectories mean in contemporary work?

What aspects of major work readied for emerging economies can be related to the rise of the mid-century state-sponsored infrastructural and/or industrial projects by international contractors such as Bechtel or Brown and Root; to concrete as an apparatus of the state or of states–the World Bank and/or global corporations? How has your work fused concepts of material to concepts of flow, of time, and increasingly, to new forms of economic flow?

Sanford Kwinter
Professor, School of Architecture, Rice University, and Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Toshiko Mori
Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Guy Nordenson
Structural engineer, New York and Professor, School of Architecture, Princeton University

Jesse Reiser
Architect, Reiser + Umemoto, New York and Professor, School of Architecture, Princeton University

Ysrael A. Seinuk
Head of Structural Department, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union

Nanako Umemoto
Architect, Reiser + Umemoto, New York

Friday, October 3

9:30–11:00 AM

Structural Concrete: After Steel Reinforcement

Moderator: Kenneth Frampton
Ware Professor of Architecture, GSAPP, Columbia University

Reinforced concrete is being reengineered; both the means and techniques of reinforcement are changing, as are the plasticity and nature of admixtures. New innovations allow more contiguous pours and thus newly continuous surfaces, newly elastic forms. What are the futures of reinforcement in concrete and what applications do we imagine they will as a catalyst for change in design and engineering?

Potential new work includes:

–Micro-thin concrete; fiber-reinforced concretes are examples of the migration of reinforcement technologies.

–Quality: Concrete is unique, compared with other materials, especially steel and glass, as it requires an elaborate quality-assurance program to assure that both off- and on-site work meets specifications.

–Ductility/Brittleness: Concrete is a very brittle material. But by properly reinforcing it, can be made ductile. This is of particular importance in seismic regions. In a transition to fiber-reinforced concrete, engineers are elevating this “art of reinforcing” to a new level, in which the material is now basically ductile.

–Serviceability/Durability/High Performance: Not long ago, a “good” concrete meant simply concrete with high compressive strength. In recent years, the concept of durability has taken hold, because we want to assure that the concrete maintains its properties throughout its design life. “High-performance concrete” is now understood as a material that assures superior performance throughout its design life. This concept allows a new mean to address problems associated with the life span of infrastructure.

Pascal Casanova
Group Director, Research and Development, Lafarge

Benjamin A. Graybeal
Engineer, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, DC

Antoine Naaman
Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Surendra Shah
Walter P. Murphy Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Center for Advanced Cement-Based Materials, Northwestern University

11:15 AM–12:30 PM

Concrete: Sustainability, Development, and new Initiatives

Moderator: Laurie Hawkinson
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

The concrete industry is addressing sustainability issues on several fronts. Advances are necessarily measured against the global production of concrete and also against smaller regional and local dimensions. As with all building materials, questions of embedded energy, eventual use, and local advantages, such as proximity to building site for shipping, are all both global in nature and local and contingent on immediate detail: the degree of modernization at plants worldwide affects wider sustainability goals and emissions, and the nature of aggregates as recycled and/or newly mined minerals couples with building life-span issues of use, such as the expected value of thermal mass, or the rapidity of urbanization and the sourcing of materials. Sustainability in this regard is far from a direct equation even as direct action is possible–increasingly it will be embedded in issues such as carbon trading and global markets but the question is, what role can we add to this equation today that lies within both technical and political or social dimensions.

An immediate issue is the successful development of Portland cement substitutes, typically by-products of other industrial processes, such as fly ash and slags. Aggregate can be partially replaced by recycled materials such as construction debris, including recycled concrete aggregate and also glass, paper mill residues, and tires. These efforts not only result in the value-added secondary uses of what otherwise would become waste materials (often land filled at high cost), but they often improve the properties of the end product. What is possible to further reduce the environmental footprint of the concrete industry?

How is sustainability a unique project for concrete and what are the goals beyond sustainability? What are the key social and political dimensions of concrete and sustainability issues.

–Water: Approximately one billion cubic meters of water are used each year in producing concrete. Regions that lack a ready water supply can be inordinately affected by the amount of water needed to produce concrete.

–Reuse and Recycling: Post-production is also a central issue: the demolition and disposal of concrete structures, pavements, and the like constitutes an environmental question that has unique parameters when compared to other building materials. Construction debris contributes a large fraction of our solidwaste disposal problem, with concrete being its largest single component.

–Plant Modernization: It has been estimated that more than ten billion tons of concrete are produced each year worldwide. In the United States this translates to a ratio of approximately two tons of concrete per person a year. This requires an unequaled amount of natural resources to provide the aggregate and the raw materials for cement production. Of equal concern is the fact that the production of Portland cement has historically released large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, making not only advancements in the design of plants critical but also the use of recycled aggregates. The cement industry is believed to account for five to seven percent of all carbon dioxide released worldwide, but as major advances are made in how cement production is accomplished, these advances are measured against both the location and region of production. Are there advantages in the regional aspects of production, such as the levels of modernization and investment at plants, production demands, and levels/speeds of urbanization?

Jacques Ferrier
Architect, Jacques Ferrier Architectures, Paris

Jacques Lukasik
Group Senior Vice President, Scientific Affairs, Lafarge

Christian Meyer
Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University

Paulo Monteiro
Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley

12:30–2:00 PM


2:00–3:15 PM

Urbanization and the Global Aspects of Concrete Production

Moderator: Reinhold Martin
Professor and Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for American Architecture, GSAPP, Columbia University

New forms of urbanization create as much as 80 percent of the worldwide market for concrete today. The persistence of concrete as both a renewed material and as new application is more urgent then ever if we gauge its current implementation. How do we gauge the fact that the speed of urbanization means that concrete will effectively become the primary material of new cities in the next decade? Will design and technical innovation be more likely to occur in certain locations where there is a confluence of key factors such as accessibility of materials and investment? What does an architect or engineer offer in light of the global aspects of building materials today–in terms of construction and contracting, and also in light of the speed, liquidity, and processes of urban change?

Where do we place our concerns and establish a stake in the situation– how do these development scenarios affect forms of architecture in terms of region or even aspects of architecture and urban design that often have addressed disinvestment rather than rapid change?

Are the goals of practice in relation to macro-scale or smaller-scale work outpaced by urbanization, or do we have new capabilities that arise from this rapid urbanization?

–What distribution or outlines of production describe relations between material manufacturing, installation, and use in work today–where a material originates and where it meets design and installation goals?

–How does work on infrastructure change in light of what we know of evolving economies or evolving demand? Has the arena of infrastructure expanded to included a wider range of technologies, a more prevalent awareness of new means and methods from leveraging economic potentials, off-site work, embedded digital technologies, and smart materials?

–Does concrete still portend plastic architectural space: is it still an architectural project or has concrete migrated to being a question of infrastructure even at the level of building design in which virtual city-scale works are realized as near singular events; indeed as forms of evolved infrastructure?

Carlos Eduardo Comas
Professor and Chair, Graduate Studies Program in Architecture, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre

Qingyung Ma
Dean, School of Architecture, University of Southern California

Marc Mimram
Architect/engineer, Marc Mimram Paris

Kate Orff
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

3:30–5:00 PM

The Scale of Practice: Global Practice / Global Client

Moderator: Jean-Louis Cohen
Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Bound to material and its spatial organization, architecture and engineering practices are also tied to intricate layers of commodity practices and investment that today have almost inevitably become global in nature. The nature of practice is more tightly woven into and responsive to investment than it ever has been; yet it is also frequently less weighted by overt characteristics of place and instead tied to trans-locations and interconnected matrices of development as well as consultants and partner practices. During the past 20 years, practice often seemed to have been indexed by way of a constellation of world cities and their particular relations–the city in this sense superseded the nation as the nexus of interchange.

Yet today trade and barriers between emerging economies are changing dramatically and at times reinforcing the role of national relations in development and design. In this realm, the anticipated roles of architectural and engineering practice, in terms of both cities and wider themes of urban life, are often fused. That is, they form unified practices that take on characterics of one another, as architecture, engineering, and, increasingly, economics. These practices at times produce work that is more quasi-infrastructure than architecture.

What forms of practice have emerged today in this arena–how have concepts of architectural space and technique been reorganized within practices of engineering and architecture to allow us to operate at levels that may have been previously the domain of international contractors or state organizations? What is the role of the architectural concept in an era of deeply engineered materials and equally instrumental economic demands on design?

Generations of architects since the 1930s have helped write a story of international and then global practice, yet the global practice, as a socially critical instrument, is still relatively young. If the practices of Archigram or Superstudio and others depicted infrastructural worlds that borrowed industrial metaphors as well as outright techniques from history while promoting radical forms of social life, what can we say of today’s critical practices? What is the role of the image of infrastructure and its material techniques–what is the role of space, of event, or of nonmaterial design in an era of deeply coordinated material value?

Have practitioners of the generation that began work in the 1970s and 80s on what were often disinvested and neglected urban sites now emerged as global participants in the rise of a new city? How do building materials and their new means of capitalization and distribution affect design practice: within the global exchange of real estate, high-tech forms of construction and materials management are relatively new–so, too, is the need to again examine cities as a central frontier of social life. Is material a significant attribute of this condition or can we examine it still as an attribute of design rather than a determining factor?

Juan Herreros
Professor, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid

Matthias Schuler
Engineer, TRANSSOLAR Energietechnik, Stuttgart

Werner Sobek
Professor and Director, Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design, University of Stuttgart

Bernard Tschumi
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

5:00–6:00 PM

Concluding Discussion: The Architect and Engineer

Moderator: Mark Wigley
Dean, GSAAP, Columbia University

How has practice in engineering and architecture changed, and going forward, what does a university need to address about industry and what does industry need to know about the university?

What are the most advanced new relationships between academia and industry, and how are they are organized?

Werner Sobek
Professor and Director, Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design, University of Stuttgart

Bernard Tschumi
Professor, GSAPP, Columbia University

Convened by:
The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation,
Columbia University in the City of New York
Mark Wigley, Dean

In Collaboration with:
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University
Christian Meyer, Chair and Professor

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The Architect’s Newspaper

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