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Architectural Roundtable 2015

International Architectural Roundtable: How is Concrete Transforming Design Now and in the Future?

December 2, Toronto –More than 450 people came to hear he four panelists speak about their work and ideas involving concrete. The Roundtable was designed to examine innovative applications of concrete in architecture and the urban environment: how concrete is enhancing the aesthetics, sustainability, and community impact of structures. 
Elsa Lam, Editor of Canadian Architect Magazine, introduced the material in its historical context summarizing with “architects love concrete.” The possibilities of a sustainable future were raised with her posing the idea, “If the past is grey, the future could be green.” 
Lam lead into the presentations by opening the possibility that we could be looking at a time when the material of concrete is thought of as “beauty” and “poetic, as she introduced the session’s four speakers: Ronald Rael, Brandon Clifford, Filippo Gabbiani, and Ken Greenberg.
Ronald Rael, CEO and Co-Founder at Emerging Objects Corp, described his research and work with powder-based laser printing and other extrusion 3D printing. “We're no longer building prototypes, we're actually printing architecture such as prefabricated panels." The key objective: “Can strong and inexpensive structural materials for powder 3D printing be created?”
Brandon Clifford, Principal at Matter Design, Belluschi Lecturer, MIT SA+P
Master of Architecture, Princeton SOA; BS Architecture, Georgia Tech COA, positioned his work and approach as “we are digital architects who are interested in materials”. He works with concrete to bring together art and technology. Clifford described his work with cutting Styrofoam using wire cutting devices as an example of the importance of innovation.
Filippo Gabbiani, Co-Founder at Kokaistudios expressed his journey from Venice to Shanghai to illustrate the differences of building and design. “China has constructed in concrete in three years what the US did in 100 years.” His examples stressed the importance of reuse and preservation.
Ken Greenberg, Principal at Greenberg Consultants walked the audience through the 2km public space project proposed for under the Gardiner expressway in Toronto. The concrete frames, supports for the elevated highway, will create the “great stage set for the City.” This project had received city approval on December 1.
Lam continued the panel discussion with questions and themes posed to all of the panelists. A number of key ideas were expressed including the future of concrete, and how new technologies are transforming the realm of built form.
Sustainability and Concrete
“We need to increase the life of a building; adapt new technologies and new materials.” – Filippo Gabbiani.
“Try to maintain rebar and stop corrosion”
“No form work (for concrete)” – Ronald Rael
New Technologies: Moving forward, breaking with tradition
“Meaning of structure has changed” – Ken Greenberg
“Building for one purpose in the past, it is now about flexibility, multi-uses”
“Possibilities are opened up with composite materials…new ways of thinking about materials” – Ronald Rael
“Different uses of concrete…strong possibilities of expression of architecture” – Filippo Gabbiani
Limitations, concerns, thoughts
“What may be free in terms of production is not free in labour; micro-complexity (of 3D printing) – Ronald Rael
“The most ubiquitous material on the planet.”
“Why does the material have to be representative (e.g. grey) of its original, historical aesthetics?”
“In this digital era standards are becoming misunderstood” – Brandon Clifford
“Design has to speed up”
“I like to be a step behind society rather than ahead” – Filippo Gabbiani
Toon Dreessen, OAA President thanked the panelists at the closing of the session and all who attended.
The OAA, Reed Construction Data, Canadian Architect, sponsored the event together with Armatherm, Brown Daniels Associates, Buildtec, Verano, and Thames Valley Brick and Tile.