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Design - Looking past set ideas

New Concrete Engineering - What would art students make out of concrete?Anything from a skeletal cellular building to an urban concrete that can change colour. NCE reports.

The joint winners of the new international concrete student design competition have been announced. Launched by The Concrete Centre in association with the British Cement Association and Cembureau, the European cement and concrete organisation, the competition under the theme of 'robustness' invited students of art, design, and architecture to submit project proposals that investigate the innovative use of concrete in architecture and design.

Announcing the joint winners, both from the UK, Allan Haines, head of education for The Concrete Centre, said: 'The high standard and competence of the competition entries was unexpected, as was the level and depth of creativity and imagination. It was very difficult to determine the shortlist and practically impossible to differentiate between the two final joint winners.'

The first prize was jointly awarded to Il Hoon Roh from the Royal College of Art for his 'nondirectional special skeleton structure' and Christopher Glaister, Tomas Rosen and Afshin Mehin, also from the Royal College of Art, for their 'open source' entry. The winning entries received E 2,500 each.

Special mentions were given to David Kelly from Ireland and Niels Ferkooijen from the Netherlands.

Roh's entry investigated the capabilities of a non-directional space frame structure to facilitate programmatic cellular building growth. It examined the potential of using inflatable pneumatic moulds to create the structure. Concrete filled the space and intersections between the moulds to form a skeletal structure.

The use of different moulds increased the flexibility of shape, while the pneumatic mould structure distributes applied forces three-dimensionally. Structural rigidity and stability are increased by duplicating and multi-layering the structure. A two-dimensional joining structure links the separate elements, serves to transfer loading stresses and acts as a ventilation and utilities connection shaft.

'The judges were impressed not only by the vision of this entry but by the attention given to spatial and structural relationships, ' said Haines. 'The entry pushed away the barriers restricting new construction shapes and building types.'

The entry from Glaister, Rosen and Mehin envisaged a public square made of concrete and able to continually evolve to reflect the changing needs of the community that the square serves.

This is done via colour-changing concrete that can mark out areas for activities such as football, positions for market stalls or rings for street performance.

It is for the community to determine how that public space serves them, allowing a sense of ownership to be developed. The idea is based on the open source IT approach of sharing software by abandoning restrictions, allowing users to obtain, modify and re-release the software as they wish.

'This was an exciting entry.

Full of real possibilities where rigid, mono-functional structures are replaced by multi-functional structures that truly answer the diverse needs and desires of a community, ' said Haines.

The competition was held in two stages: a national and then an international competition between the national winners.

Participating countries included Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and the UK.

To encourage the most diverse and original designs possible, no predetermined design criteria were provided. The only proviso was that all entries examined the full potential of the manifest and latent qualities of concrete.

'The competition deliberately did not impose design criteria or rules. We wanted to encourage students to go beyond conventional thinking and normal application. This they certainly did, ' said Haines.

'The wide range of creative ideas evident from the entries proves that as a material concrete has few limitations.

This competition underlined the potential of concrete as a 21st century material.

The competition will be run on a two-year cycle, with the first part to be launched in June 2005.

Again the theme will be generic rather than specific, to attract students from a wide range of disciplines and to ensure that creativity and imagination are fully encouraged.

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