Make Architecture



Assignment 7: Formwork

I used this week to try to expand and improve on my air-blown formwork from last weeks casting exercise, but this week’s try ended up worse than last week, so I’m chalking it up to being a failed experiment.

I was intrigued by the idea of fabric formwork as well as pneumatic formwork, so I tried to make a flexible formwork that could be inflated to different amounts to make different shapes. I wanted to expand on last week, so I chose shells as the shape that I would be making. I don’t have any sewing or fabric skills, so I used plastic instead.

I borrowed a plastic-sealer from Sarah which can create airtight seals between 2 layers of plastic.

After playing with it for a while I found the right setting for sealing without melting the plastic, you can see the graveyard of experiments to get it right.

The plan was to cut out 3 layers of the same shape, seal the first 2 to create an air bladder, then offset the seal on the third one to create a slightly larger cavity that would be the volume of the shell. The bladder can be filled with a variable amount of air to change the depth of the shell, and then I would fill the outer area with concrete to create the shape. One limitation on the shape is that Sarah’s sealer is linear and hinged at one end, so I had a limit on the length of any one side and they had to be straight.

Tracing out the shape on the plastic folded over twice.

Cut out and held together with staples

Offsetting the line for the inner bladder

Sealing everything

Using a bike pump with a needle to inflate the inside – I sealed it with a piece of tape.

Everything is all set

I bought Quikrete to use this week because I couldn’t find Rockite – which was probably my first mistake. Whereas Rockite is essentially mortar, Quikrete has sand and grit mixed in already. I mixed it thin to try to easily settle into the form when poured in from the top.

This is where things went all wrong- the first pour into the hole in the top and the concrete fell to one side, forcing the bladder down, which then caused the rest of the concrete to pool in that area. When I tried to even it out, the plastic and air couldn’t hold the weight of the concrete on top and it popped the bladder and it slowly deflated to the shapeless blob of concrete pictured below. I had to clean my hands off before I could take a picture, so this is after everything described above had already happened.

The concrete is still mostly in the right place within the plastic pieces, but the air just didn’t hold.

What I figured from this week is that the fabric formwork really needs to be designed for the casting medium. This might have worked with a lighter weight plaster or Oomoo, or if the concrete didn’t have the grit.

I was also probably too ambitious to attempt both a pneumatic and fabric-form in one. If I had made a form to make columns or something solid out of plastic or fabric, it probably would have been easier than attempting shells.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


%d bloggers like this: