Material Innovation in Precast Concrete

by Estelle Yoon (MArch I '20)

The project proposes a design innovation in the fabrication process of precast concrete components and an amplification of their aesthetic and atmospheric quality. It takes advantage of the high level of precision in manufacturing and ease of reproduction inherent in the pre-fabrication process as opposed to on-site casting, and suggests an alternative material effect to a more normative impression of cold and gray presence of exposed concrete.

When poured into a mold at different times, separate layers of concrete mix are registered within a single part, allowing for distinct colors or textures of mix to remain visible. This method had already been discovered and employed by many architects including Studio Gang, ESTUDIO Tatiana Bilbao. and Peter Zumthor, but solely for in-situ concrete or rammed earth, limiting the striation to be relatively large in scale and horizontal, as the pouring process depends completely upon gravity.

By displacing the process from on-site casting to prefab, the striation technique could be conducted in a highly controlled environment. The prototypes of the project are casted in several different angles with layers of distinctly pigmented mixes. When erected in their intended position, the reading of the layers of the precast components are liberated from the orientation of gravity, suggesting an unanticipated visual effect. The use of texture and color for each concrete layer could be extensively used in exposed parts of the prefab elements for both interior and exterior, ranging from columns to walls and facade.