Practically Absurd: Minimizing Weight to Maximize Handling of Concrete

Rebecca Koshner + Yijia Liu



Tsz Yan Ng


Our investigation is a concrete masonry unit system made up of a series of hollow and ‘ribbon’ units. The hollowness of the units aims to lighten the weight to make it possible for manual lifting, as well as to work with the distribution of mass to reposition the center of mass (COM) of each unit to direct their leaning disposition. Through an analysis of ergonomics, momentum, physics, and the center of gravity, we created a wall assembly that depends on a mutually symbiotic relationship between units to lean upon one another as a dry-fit system without mortar. By allowing the units to bear stress where necessary, the intentional “gentle touch” between them allows for the visual expression of their weight and compression.

The formworks for the units are designed to be modular and reconfigurable, using predominantly high-density EPS foam, with a packed sand + bentonite interior filling that is removed after casting. The foam formwork allows us to maintain modularity when regulating the different mold assemblies to create a variety of units from a set series of robotically hotwired foam pieces. Through this process, we have designed a “smart formwork” which can be reused multiple times over several castings in order to cut material cost and time in manufacturing. The intention of this project was to create greater ease of construction, both in the casting process through our formwork design, and in moving the units into their final position. The design proposal takes advantage of the non-bearing moments of the units to allow for light and air to filter through, working with varied porosity between the two sides of the wall.