Imagination and Concrete


Imagination and Concrete

Haylee Thomas-Kuhlmann (Post 13)

Concrete is one of the most used building materials today, but how is it usually used? All around us are beams, columns, and heavy structural aspects of concrete that hold up the buildings around us. What if we used concrete as a design material, a flexible fabric like material on buildings? Concrete fabric is a thing! We usually see in on ditches to guide water places or on hills that are falling apart due to erosion.

This fabric can be cut, molded, nailed, and stapled like actual fabric. To make the material malleable water is first applied. Once the material is in the correct spot it will dehydrate and take the form it was given and stay that way. It still holds many properties of concrete and has strength due to the fibers in the fabric. This material can also be as thin as 5 mm and two people can easily handle the roll while constructing (Andrew Dent and Milliken Infrastructure).

When first glancing at this material it seems that what its being used for is to manipulate landscapes to help with natural phenomenon. Often people think of concrete as a solid material unable to be formed into crazy shapes but with this material it opens a different way of using concrete. Walls could be made into waves, have seamless windows and edges, and come off as fabric. As an architect, using materials in an unlikely way is one way to produce an amazing building. Small huts and project have been made using this concrete fabric but there could be an even better use. Could this be the façade of a building? It blocks out the outside forces well and can even be paths for water. Could you bend folds into the face of the building to guide rainwater off the building into small man-made ponds? This can open many unique structures and buildings that have not been thought of!

However, there is minimal information on how structural it is or how heavy it is when molded. These could create sent backs in the design process and must be considered.



Dent, Andrew. “Architectural.” Fabric of the Future: Innovative Design Materials to Come. N.p., 3 May 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

“Milliken Infrastructure.” Milliken Infrastructure.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.



  1. Sam Challe Blog 11/ Comment 1

    The idea of concrete as a flexible and aesthetic material really interests me. I like that it can be flipped from its original use of structure to design. Any time a material like concrete or metal can be made into a fabric it makes the possibilities of it endless.

    One aspect that is really interesting is that the feel of concrete can be applied without the weight constraint. This allows a faux concrete feel for structures that may not actually be able to support a full blown concrete wall or ceiling. This flexibility seems like it could help in situations where structure is pushed aside and aesthetics is the main focus.

    One thing that I feel isn’t all that accurate is the idea that regular concrete cant be made into crazy shapes. Concrete, along with other materials, is a material being stretched and tested. Just because it is structural doesn’t necessarily mean it cant be curved and arced in ways that are eye catching.

    All in all I feel as if this concrete fabric has endless uses. I wonder how it would perform when stacked on itself to make thicker layers? Or how it will act on “breathable” buildings that move and sway duh to high winds or how it holds in places with earthquakes? It seems brittle yet durable so I would love to see how it performs going forward.

  2. jonlamere

    Jon LaMere
    Blog/Comment 13

    Concrete has been known throughout time for its strength and durability, and its use often reflects these qualities. However, just as the original author of this post has done, i believe it is important to look at concrete in less of a traditional way, that is, not as a static material, but one that can be vastly manipulated based on its needs in a specific environment.

    To illustrate this idea, look to the Ancient Roman times, where these master builders created vast structures that still stand to this day. How was this possible with supposed limited technology and knowledge? It is apparent that the Romans mastered their mixture of concrete, known as Roman Concrete, to stand up to its volatile environment.

    How was their mix different from modern Portland cement? One major difference is that the Romans used a composition heavy in volcanic ash, this is one integral modification that specifically allowed the concrete to remain strong while in prolonged contact with salt-water. Some of these structures still stand to this day, compare this to some of our current mixes that only have 50 years of service life in high salt-water environments.

    However, this is just one modification that can lead to a profound difference in concretes ability to remain in adverse environments. If we apply this problem solving and logic that the ancients used, we can modify our materials in the same way, and to fit new challenges. These problems do not only apply to strength and composition. For example, with all the attention around green and sustainable building, it is important to note that Portland cement mixture is a major contributor to CO2 released into the environment. Much greener processes have already been established, now come they are not being implemented?

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