Bird of Scotland

At the time my grandmother departed from this world I lived in Scotland, studying art at the university. I had moved there from Stockholm in 2007 with a somewhat childish vision of becoming something big, maybe get a phd or become famous at the art galleries by exhibiting my thin concrete sculptures (I had developed a special technique for it during my high school years (my father works within construction.))

Anyways, this particular day I was out in my studio far out in the suburbs, doing the final touches on a tall woman holding a rat in a leash. I suddenly felt that someone was watching me. I looked up. On the window sill out in the rain was a small black bird.

“Who are you?”, I said almost whispering, not knowing where the idea of talking to the animal came from.

No answer.

“Who are you?”, I repeated.

Wind howling outside. Still no answer.

At that time my phone started ringing.

1 Like

Conference paper excerpt with hand-written notes. Dated to August 23d, 2016 and unsigned. Author of comments unknown.

Excerpt: Thin Concrete Shells At Mit: Kresge Auditorium And The 1954 Conference

By James W. Plunkett, Caitlin V Mueller

Thin-shell concrete is one of the most important developments in twentieth century construction history. Formalized in the 1920s in Germany by Franz Dischingerand Ulrich Finsterwalder (May 2012), this material and structural system have been used to achieve great spans, unprecedented material efficiency, and dizzying geometric complexity that captured the imagination of the modernist movement in architecture.

Thinner concrete moves more elegantly. Swifter.

But thin-shell concrete structures also embody a fundamental contradiction: on the one hand, they offer an infinite spectrum of possibilities for new structural shapes, as described by engineers like Heinz Isler (Chilton 2010).

Heinz needs to read up on rejected paper, email, perhaps co-publish?

On the other hand, their success depends on a precise and sometimes intractable relationship between geometry and structural behavior; just because a shape is rendered in thin concrete does not mean it behaves as an efficient shell.

Does the shell need to be “efficient”? A thin shell can be strong if used correctly in it’s right dimensional configuration. This does not apply to sculptural work, I suppose.

This paper is about this fascinating contradiction, which lies at the root of the welldocumented rapid rise and subsequent decline of thin concrete shells in the post-war American architecture and engineering (Billington 1983). This paper examines this trajectory through the lens of a particular moment and place, 1954 and the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a snapshot that reveals a critical shift for how thin-shell concrete structures in the United States would be perceived and constructed during the Post-War period.

MIT visit coming up, remember to bring laser, chisel and glue

1 Like