Poetics of Materials and Infrastructure Sessions

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The InnovaConcrete Project: New Approaches to Conserving 20th C. Concrete Heritage

Concrete was perhaps the most widely used construction material of the 20 th Century. It was deployed as both a structural material and as a way to give architectural expression to buildings of all kinds. No matter what its form, concrete, when left exposed directly to the elements, is susceptible to significant deterioration that can have a detrimental effect on its aesthetic and structural integrity. The materials and methods used in concrete construction were often experimental and many buildings and structures have not performed well over time. Current conservation methods for concrete have many challenges in accomplishing repairs that do not negatively impact the aesthetic values of the heritage resource and are done in a manner that is cost effective and durable. There is also a need for improved public perception of this important heritage. While many significant concrete buildings are now being recognized worldwide for their heritage values, more needs to be done. These challenges are faced by heritage professionals all across the globe.

Heath Ceramics’ Architectural Tile: A Case Study of the Influence of the New Bauhaus on Design in America

The translation of Bauhaus pedagogy into American institutions in the 1930s greatly influenced the future of modernist design practice in the United States. László Moholy-Nagy’s leadership at the New Bauhaus and the Institute of Design dramatically affected the way young practitioners approached industrial design in Chicago, and had repercussions for the trajectory of design practice nationally. Edith Heath, founder of the Bay Area-based company Heath Ceramics, lived in Chicago in the 1930s and worked with Moholy-Nagy on the WPA Recreation Project. She was impacted by his expansive involvement in the city’s art, design, and architecture communities. Heath’s path from being an artist and advisee of Moholy-Nagy in Chicago to a designer of “Architectural Tile” in California can be used as a case study to explore the impact of the 1930s Chicago art, design, and architecture community on modernist design practice across the United States at mid-century.

"Sculpture on a Grand Scale": Jack Christiansen’s Thin Shell Modernism

John V. “Jack” Christiansen (1927-2017) was a prolific, American designer of thin shell concrete structures. Christiansen built largely within the United States in the latter half of the 20th century - making him distinct among the global pantheon of concrete shell designers. Through the use of innovative, reusable formwork systems, Christiansen proved the viability of shell construction in the Pacific Northwest and became a significant creative contributor to the mid-century modern architecture of the region. Born in Chicago, and educated at University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign, and Northwestern University, Christiansen felt a deep connection between architecture and structural engineering.  This integrated understanding allowed him to find architectural expression and unprecedented spans in his thin-shell structures.  His work culminated in the design of the Seattle Kingdome – an essential part of Seattle’s professional sports culture and the largest concrete dome in the world in its time.

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