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This competition seeks to investigate through research and design, any notion of plastic-OPACITY in or with concrete. It asks participants to embrace and explore opportunities implied by the dual and combined qualities of plasticity and opacity without particularly pinning down the literal or exact meaning of each property but allowing the pluralistic and phenomenal implications of both. ‘Traditional’ design criteria as programme, location, context, scale and so on, may be added freely by participants in order to structure their research and enhance the potential of their application. These can be derived from recent school projects such that the competition aims blend with current curricula as basis. Results of these explorations have to be presented through proposals that are ‘design-led’ – be it architectural, structural or otherwise – in order to reveal their relevance and merits by application. The proposals may range from objects, furniture, buildings and architectural details to housing, landscape interventions and other large-scale projects. The judging criteria for entries will be framed by both the goal and means of the proposals.


plastic-OPACITY

‘concrete is as concrete doesn’t’ – Massumi

Recent developments such as high strength concrete and self-compacting mixtures have improved its strength and processability. These new properties are already bringing a different level of inspiration to architecture students and practitioners alike by generating new possibilities in themselves, which are much than technical solutions to design ambitions whose motivations come from other sources. Already explorations of concrete’s inherent qualities such as mass, weight, density, strength and durability are leading to innovative applications. But such possibilities could open up an imaginative field that might satisfy the deep-rooted desire for transparent and intelligent concrete. If so, concrete would finally be able to add transparency to its obvious plasticity, combining the two great characteristics of modern architecture in one material.

Various developments are engineering a shift in our notions of transparency and lightness in architecture. Ever more rigorous physical (or environmental) demands will continue to reduce the surface area of glass in buildings, but advanced technologies mean this will not necessarily result in less transparency. Computing power allows us to identify structural ‘cold spots’ which can be ‘dematerialised’, and there are seemingly unlimited techniques for generating form. This opens the way to move from a ‘material transparency’ towards a ‘spatial transparency’ in which formal issues as depth, void and matter meet with material properties like texture, weight and solidity, offering experiences and interpretations of transparency that are generated by the opacity of the material. Paradoxically, exploiting concrete’s property of opacity offers the potential to experience and increase transparency, but it is a transparency in a ‘relative’ rather than an ‘absolute’ sense.

Concrete’s plastic characteristics – from fluid to solid, allowing for the production of complex forms, - combined with its mass and resilience allows for ‘free’ transformations while efficiently resolving structural and physical demands. We can envisage a truly three- dimensional architectural operation (even within the material itself) instead of a one- dimensional ‘see-through’ performance. So plastic-OPACITY infers a spatial transparency, opening up to intricate engagements of shadows and light, tactility, relief and introducing techniques like weaving, punching and folding. It leaves the realm of the purely visual, and opens the door to programmatic, environmental and physical aspects as well as investigations of specific experiences of spaces, context as well as other architectural issues.

The discipline of design proffers a reciprocal relationship that can move from idea to materiality as well as in the opposite direction moving materiality to idea. The dual or combined notions on plastic-OPACITY tap directly into some of the basic properties of concrete. Similarly it offers contextual, theoretical and pragmatic design considerations that are seemingly contradictory. This perhaps unnerving or slightly confusing quality needs to be imaginatively resolved by all entrants. Insights and interpretations that may very well differ completely from presented notions on plastic-OPACITY are welcomed and expected.

This competition seeks to investigate through research and design, any notion of plastic-OPACITY in or with concrete. It asks participants to embrace and explore opportunities implied by the dual and combined qualities of plasticity and opacity without particularly pinning down the literal or exact meaning of each property but allowing the pluralistic and phenomenal implications of both. ‘Traditional’ design criteria as programme, location, context, scale and so on, may be added freely by participants in order to structure their research and enhance the potential of their application. These can be derived from recent school projects such that the competition aims blend with current curricula as basis. Results of these explorations have to be presented through proposals that are ‘design-led’ – be it architectural, structural or otherwise – in order to reveal their relevance and merits by application. The proposals may range from objects, furniture, buildings and architectural details to housing, landscape interventions and other large-scale projects.

The judging criteria for entries will be framed by both the goal and means of the proposals which have to be delivered on two A1 boards (vertical) complemented by a digital version of the boards in a predetermined format (see rules). Hanif Kara, curator