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Through sheer determination and courage, Kahn has researched the nature of concrete in the form of precast, cast in place or blocks. Each of his renowned works in exposed concrete, such as the Yale Art Gallery, the Richards Laboratories, the Bath House, the Salk Institute, the National Assembly, the Kimbell Museum, the Exeter Library and the Yale Center for British Art, is itself an important chapter in the history of architecture for the exploration into concrete’s formal expression, beyond the lesson of Le Corbusier. Kahn’s obsession on concrete fabrication processes, on the formwork and the mix-design, is systematically examined in two volumes. They illustrate Kahn’s vision with documents that have never been revealed in other essays, drawing heavily from original sketches, plans, specifications, worksite photographs, and correspondences with collaborators, engineers, technicians and contractors. The first volume Exposed Concrete and Hollow Stones focuses on the first ten-year period of Kahn’s research on concrete. Moving through the many construction systems experienced by Kahn, from the discovery of exposed concrete in the form of béton brut at the Yale Art Gallery, to the precast and poured-in-place techniques, to the values of joint, growth and ornament, the essay culminates in the reconstruction of the artistic and technical characteristics of two great worksite, the Richards Laboratories and the First Unitarian Church and School. The second volume Towards the Zero Degree of Concrete covers the following fourteen years and leads the reader along Kahn’s path to the true “nature of concrete,” focusing on his main techniques and poetic discoveries such as the “liquid stone” of the Salk Institute, the “smooth finish” at Bryn Mawr, the expression of “growth” at the Dhaka Parliament and the concept of “monolithic” at the Yale Center for British Art.


  • Chapter one. The nature of concrete: the “liquid stone” of the Salk Institute – Slabs of stone and concrete in the ocean coast landscape – Stone face and concrete nucleus: towards a new opus caementicium – “Limestone-concrete wall”: the prefabricated panels – Poured in place versus precast – Formwork and concrete according to the programs of 1962 – Technical details for the stone slabs as permanent formwork – Formwork according to the specifications of October 1962 – The color of Pei’s concrete – The specifications of December 1962 – Retaining Wall, “tentative form pattern” and elimination of the stone – Preliminary design for the formwork of the Studies, January 1963 – The T strip in solid wood as a junction between the plywood panels – New studies for the formwork of the Retaining Walls and Service Towers – The experimental formwork in the walls of the Mechanical Building – Mix design trials for the concrete: the whiteness of pozzolan – The East Wall of the Mechanical Building: fossils of panels and reliefs – The V joint and the bleed-out – Pattern studies for the formwork of the Service Towers – The philosophy of the panel: Langford’s letter – Juncture strip, pour joint, cold joint and shrinkage joint – Coating of the plywood panel: the erasure of the wood imprint – Development of the system – Cones and snap ties – The wall of the parking area, definitive test of the surface shaped by the formwork – Worksite chronicles – Rugged Travertine – Discoloration of concrete and other defects – Modifications to the specifications, December 1963 – Worksite chronicles, January-March 1964: the pursuit of perfection – “Report on Concrete Work”: progress, failures and utopias of the “construction process” – Towards a new concrete surface – “Weekly report on concrete work” – The recommendations of Komendant and the decisions of Langford – Triumph in concrete
  • Chapter two. Confirmations of the smooth finish: the worksite at Bryn Mawr – Choice of the geometric design of the exposed concrete floor slab – Working processes for concrete according to the specifications – Apologia of plywood – Precast concrete or cast stone, and slate slabs – Design and construction of the first formwork – The construction of the walls in the Halls – The design of the formwork for the waffle slab – Placing of the cladding in slabs of concrete and slate
  • Chapter three. Design and construction in concrete at Dhaka – Concrete construction practices in Dhaka – The formwork of Kreier for Pakistan – The information of Ahmad and Gelhardt on concrete in Dhaka – Cladding slabs and concrete construction process – Drafts for the specifications of the concrete and the formwork – Concrete formwork plywood – The opposition of the Pakistani engineers to exposed concrete – The “typical wall form” – Choice of cement and formwork hypotheses – Reinforced brick masonry – Choices for the formwork – Research on concrete ingredients – Formwork with random assembly of boards – Pattern studies for the Office Sector of the National Assembly Building – The roof of the Presidential Square, first formwork for the concrete of Dhaka – Information from Vollmer and Gustav Langford for formwork development – The formwork man: Frederick Langford and the Experimental Walls – The Engineers, the Inter-Dominion Construction Company and the reorganization of Kahn’s office in Dhaka – The plastic-covered panel of the Inter-Dominion Construction Company – The search for a logic for the vertical strips – The panels of The Engineers and of the Inter-Dominion Construction Company – Recommendations of Wilcots and guidelines of Palmbaum for the concrete – Notes on concrete – On the worksite, starting in August 1967 – Defects and remedies in the fabrication of the concrete according to Gustav Langford – Siddiqui’s proposal for the plywood formwork – Work chronicles – The worksite supervised by David Wisdom & Associates and Wazid
  • Chapter four. Walls and vaults of the Kimbell Art Museum – Skeleton, “cavity curtain walls” and the cycloid curve – The concrete according to the specifications – Research on the color of concrete: the question of the pozzolan of the Salk Institute – Color and working of the Travertine – The formwork for the walls – Sample walls: in pursuit of the perfect line – The slab structure: exposed or with suspended ceiling – The “Fred Langford Formwork Systems” – Formwork details according to Seymour – “About the concrete”: Kahn’s position – Recommendations of Komendant for the making of the concrete – Formwork for the “site work concrete walls” – Concrete shells of cycloidal shape
  • Chapter five. Concrete and brick – Mikveh Israel Synagogue, or the cladding of concrete – Antiseismic reinforcements for the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad Reinforced concrete masonry: projects for Interama – Concrete versus brick: the Exeter Library – Rubber gaskets or V joints – Effects of the materials, or of the “natural finish” – The concrete worksite: leakage phenomena – Gustav Langford’s glossary of formwork and pouring – The design of the formwork for the circular openings – The violin in concrete and the case in brick: the Performing Arts Theater – The formwork of the Evans Products Company – Concrete procedure and worksite – Precast concrete planks for hollow floor slabs – Formwork for the walls of the Auditorium: the limits of carpentry
  • Chapter six. Different forms of exposed concrete – Towards the “glass-concrete” for the Memorial to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs – Crude appearance of the concrete for the Olivetti – Underwood Corporation – Research on formwork – Post-tensioned columns and capitals: defects in the concrete – The construction of the shells – Envelope in precast concrete and concrete blocks – Frames of life: skeleton and infill for the Inner Harbor complex – The ark in wood and concrete for Temple Beth El – The Entrance Building
  • Chapter seven. Delirious formwork: slip-form method for skyscrapers – First designs for the Office Building in Kansas City: precast or poured in place – Skyscraper variant in precast concrete with marble joints – Discovery of the slip-formed cylindrical column: the project for New York – Komendant’s work-platform – Slip-forms for the skyscraper in Kansas City – Composition and surface treatments of the concrete
  • Chapter eight. Towards the monolith: the Yale Center for British Art – Harmonies between concrete and other materials – Concrete for the skeleton and steel panels for the infills – Estrangement of materials: color research on metallic concrete – Guidelines and requirements for architectural concrete – Specifications of Pfisterer, Tor & Associates and Kahn – The first formwork for the architectural concrete – The Airfloor groove in the entrance courtyard
  • Acknowledgements
  • Name index


Publisher: EPFL Press English Imprint

Author(s): Anna Rosellini

Collection: Treatise on Concrete

Published: 13 november 2014

Edition: 1st edition

Media: Book

Pages count Book: 512

Format (in mm) Book: 160 x 240

Weight (in grammes): 1370 (Book)

Language(s): French

EAN13 Book: 9782940222773

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