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From Lab to Site: Innovation in Concrete

  • Art and Architecture Buildings - A. Alfred Taubman Wing Commons 2000 Bonisteel Blvd. Ann Arbor, MI (map)

From the climate imperatives to make the built environment carbon positive to novel material forming techniques such as 3D printing, concrete is undergoing a transformation along different fronts in the building industry. As computational design and digital fabrication technologies become mainstream in the AEC industries, scaling up to address construction level challenges, concrete holds tremendous promise for the future, not only in shaping our built environment but also in how we build, our ethos and aspirations. Yet, there are many hurdles to overcome. With traditional building processes steeped in protocols and regulations, moving R+D to the building sector requires an awareness of the different players, institutions, and contingencies that shape the contours of concrete innovation.

What approaches contribute to a smooth transfer of innovations to the building sector? Given new modes of manufacturing, what are the new codes and standards that will govern the path toward implementation? What cross-platform systems will need to be in place in order to facilitate automation and construction productivity? What are the new technologies and associated expertise that will emerge to redefine architectural practice and the building industry, especially to navigate and manage the increasingly multi-disciplinary teams?

This symposium, rather than a survey of contemporary concrete architecture, brings researchers and industry experts together from diverse disciplinary fields and areas of production – history & theory, engineering, construction technology, material science, design, and manufacturing – for a timely discussion centered on concrete as a building material with enormous potential for innovation. The symposium aims to foster and identify trajectories for advancing concrete research and align potential collaborative exchanges.

Co-organized by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning and the University of Michigan College of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the symposium will launch with an evening keynote lecture on Thursday, October 31, followed by a full day symposium on Friday, November 1. The format consists of paired presentations centered on different topics related to concrete research, with a second keynote lecture at noon. A closing panel discussion aims to chart trajectories and methodologies for research and collaboration. Friday’s event will conclude with an exhibition opening reception downtown at the Liberty Research Annex gallery, highlighting some of the work produced by participants, including a performance by Brandon Clifford and Davide Zampini of Cemex. 

The symposium is free and open to the public, and will also be available via live stream.  Please check back for more information on registration and full conference schedule. 

Keynote Lectures

Thursday, October 31: Mark Burry, Swinburne University of Technology
Friday, November 1: Sarah Billington, Stanford University