The objective of the course was to turn a rigorous and extensive material study into a viable structural system for a mixed-use building. I chose to experiment with cork and concrete, and design under the inherent properties of both materials.
During the Material Study, I found that cork is impermeable, but breaks if any fold or bend goes unsupported. It becomes exponentially more flexible if it has almost any support. Concrete felt like a natural fit, as there was an opportunity to push the limits of the cork’s structural capabilities while letting the concrete both fit to any mold, but also minutely manipulate it with its own weight.
The 1:1 Model put months of material studies to use. The cork served as part of the mold, veneer, and left an interested texture when removed. The vertical concrete members were reinforced with a cross hatch of steel bars. Screw eye bolts lined with nuts allowed openings into the ‘walls’. The horizontal ‘floors’ were supported with hex mesh to help distribute loads, and a pre-tensioned steel cable that was fed through holes in the walls.
The final product ended up experiencing a break in the second level. The vertical foam supports were spaced too far for the mold to contain the amount of concrete it was meant to. That said, the structure did not collapse. Even with the faulty corner, the span was eventually achieved once the concrete cured for a couple of days.
The Final Project was a concrete/cork system of undulations that was reflective of the ‘weight’ and ‘speed’ of the space above. Deeper undulations began to define rooms on each level, while shallow curves created striations in the ceiling that organized spaces below. Spaces in which the cork mold was left on were warmer spaces. Wherever the mold was removed, the texture of the cork remained, giving the concrete a softer and more tactile appearance.
The Details and Facade were where I tried to make the project feel more real, aside from the 1:1 Model demonstrating the system. At the scale I’m suggesting, lighter pockets of insulation would need to replace some of the concrete to lighten the load a bit, as well as create opportunities for water and HVAC systems. The cork facade acts as a natural insulator, and took advantage of the inherent ability of cork to bend and peel, letting light and natural air into the structure.