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    Contain [ar] chitecture

    Megan Basnak
    Feb 7, '12 4:16 PM EST

    Contributed by: Robert Garlow, M.Arch Student

    Studio Abstract:
    Vertical Constructions is a graduate studio in the Material Culture Graduate Research Group that explores the design and construction of vertical structures. It concentrates on 3 primary objectives: 1) on the differences between stereotomic (mass) and tectonic (stick) construction systems and the processes involved in their successful design and construction; 2) on the theoretical ideas of these materials and their constructed assemblies and the spaces they generate (including Kenneth Framptons cosmological interpretation of Gottfried Sempers Four Elements of Architecture which relates stereotomic mass with the earth and tectonic assemblies with the sky, as well as Gaston Bachlards phenomenological understanding of the spaces of the cellar and attic, the lower associated with darkness and fear and the upper with lightness and comfort); and 3) and planning and performing the work necessary in the construction of each material and its construction type.
    Jean LaMarche:   Associate Professor, University at Buffalo School of Architecture

    Project Abstract:
    Contain [ar] chitecture

    To study a concrete structure is to study a preliminary architecture once in place to give the fluid material its form and texture; an architecture, which traditionally, we know only as a name (formwork) and not a physical presence in the final product. 
    I intended to reconcile this severance between form and formwork while recording the intimate relationship between concrete as a stereotomic material and the imbedded memory of the tectonic processes necessary to create it’s [form]work.
    As an exploration into the connection between form giver and recipient, the board form formwork is designed and assembled in such a way that once serving its function as container, the formwork slip-transforms up the now structurally cured concrete, each individual module pulling apart vertically expressing the joints of the formwork.
    The result is an architecture that transcends its function as container, transforming vertically to recount Kenneth Frampton’s cosmological interpretation of Gottfried Semper’s “Four Elements of Architecture” which relates stereotomic mass with the earth and tectonic assemblies with the sky.

    This concept was first executed in a small scale exploration (7 feet tall) at the University at Buffalo using pine wood, threaded rod and hydro-cal. Once its viability was confirmed and areas of technical and conceptual improvement were identified, I began the design process for a full scale construction at a Griffis Sculpture Park located 50 miles south of Buffalo.

    This full scale manifestation aimed to continue the [form]work investigation while addressing earlier criticisms and negotiating an increase in scale.  The goals were two fold: allow for entry into the space and remove the additive structure that previously filled the void between interior and exterior formwork. The observer may now engage directly with the vertical interior space and the void left between formworks.  The result is an architecture that presents an embedded narrative in its material and form.

    Small Scale Material Exploration


    Module Slip Transformation Process


    Installed at ARTPARK, Lewsiston, NY. As a finalist in the Edges II National Outdoor Sculpture Competition (Summer 2011)


    Project Details.
    The entire full scale project is reduced to three components: concrete, wood, and the threaded rod tension lamination system. Each wall contains four threaded rods applying pressure to the individual timbers in order to keep the joints tight. Once serving its function as container and the concrete is cured, the threaded rod is removed from the wall and reinserted as each individual board is slid up the face of the concrete to its predetermined height, marked by a second set of pre-drilled holes. This process continues until the entire wall has been transformed and the threaded rod, acting in tension, laminates the formwork once again, post-transformation.
    Throughout this evolution from container to occupiable architecture, a second set of threaded rods plays a crucial role in providing stability. Starting as form-ties between the inner and outer formworks, 32 threaded rods (8 per wall) pass through a steel pipe embedded in the concrete. These rods can then be removed and re-inserted throughout the transformation process while reusing the original form-tie holes. The result is a rigid structure in which the form-ties adhere the bottom of the formworks to the concrete mass as well as bridge the void between the formworks above the concrete line.


    The introduction of nearly 10,000 lbs of liquid concrete made the connection between container wall and footing a crucial detail to prevent a blow-out and separation.  This was remedied through a 2x4 footing form fastened to the cured footer using the same method as the reusable form-ties and holes throughout the project.  The nailer plate securely fastens the walls to the footer until the concrete cures and are removed along with the footing forms allowing the footings to be concealed upon backfilling. Textured concrete walls rise from an earthen floor.



    Once the concrete is cured, the threaded rod form-ties are removed from the embedded steel pipes, the wooden members of the wall are individually slipped up the face of the
    wall to their final location, and the threaded rod form-ties are then inserted through new holes into the existing steel pipes, fastening the walls to the concrete. The holes once containing the form-ties now allow form-ties to structure between the interior and exterior formwork through the void created during the transformation process.


    To coalesce with the goal of [re]-using the formwork as part of the architecture, in turn giving it an existence beyond the container, only re-claimed wood was employed. An intimate understanding of the materials was gained through the lengthily processing phase.



    On-Site Processes


    Interior formwork transformation sequence

    Formwork. Residue. Texture. & the re-usable form tie holes



    Embedded narrative of the vertical transformation (interior)


    Resulting vertical space

    For more information and documentation on this project please visit my website at



    • 1 Comment

    • very nice....

      Feb 12, 12 9:59 pm  · 

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