Size: 6.1m x 3.6 x 0.3m
Materials: Fiber-Reinforced Thin-Shell Precast Concrete Panels mounted on Steel Frame
Tools: Rhino, Grasshopper, Kangaroo
Location: FRAC Centre, Orleans, France
Fabrication: Concreteworks, Oakland, California
P_Wall (2013), part of on-going research by Matsys into the use of flexible formwork (see earlier projects in the series here, here, here, and here), celebrates the self-organization of material under force. The form emerges through the interaction of the elastic fabric formwork and the liquid slurry of plaster. The designer has control over the locations of the constraints on the fabric which inform the overall form of each panel, but the specific curvature is determined solely by the system finding a state of equilibrium between mass and elasticity.
This iteration of the wall focused on three areas of innovation in reference to past iterations. First, this wall is the first to be constructed out of fiber-reinforced concrete rather than plaster. Rather than solid panels, each panel is only 2cm thick, vastly reducing the weight of each panel and allowing them to be much larger than previous installations. This process entailed the use of five original fabric-cast plaster patterns and subsequent rubber molds for the thin-shell concrete fabrication process.
Second, we were interested in exploring the boundary between modularity and repetition. At what point is something that is modular also repetitious? At what point does a pattern emerge that conflicts with a desired informal landscape? Using a tiling pattern of four panel sizes and five modules rotated in two directions, the pattern is never repeated across a total of thirty-four panels.
Third, using digital simulation models, a rough approximation of the wall was created virtually that allowed many more rounds of design iteration and testing in comparison with earlier projects in the series. Using a spring-network of meshes, the elastic fabric and the mass of the liquid plaster slurry could be modeled within an acceptable range of accuracy based on physical testing.