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Samskara, Made in India © 2014 Anshika Varma

Teaching

Bronx, Parsons University

LIGHT MATTER EXPLORATIONS: Exploring the scope of ferrocement architecturally
School of Construction Environment (SCI), Parsons New School
New York, U.S.A.

February 2014

Director: Anupama Kundoo

Background

Ferrocement was first used in France1 1847, and its early applications concentrated chiefly on boat building until the Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi in the early 1940s demonstrated the material’s suitability for roof structures. Nervi’s roofs designed for the Italian Naval Academy swimming pool and the Turin Exhibition Hall still rank among the most spectacular examples of the use of ferrocement. In recent years the material has gained popularity in housing, grain and water storage and biogas tanks, but the material still remains insufficiently explored architecturally.
Ferrocement is a type of thin-wall reinforced concrete construction where cement is reinforced with layers of small diameter mesh, of metallic or other materials. Although similar to reinforced concrete the amount and distribution of reinforcement is such that it acts as a composite material exhibiting a completely different behaviour compared to reinforced concrete.2 Ferrocement is always less than 3 cm thick and reinforced concrete usually more than 10 cm.

Particular relevance to architectural applications3

  1. Its basic raw materials are available in most countries.
  2. It can be fabricated into almost any shape to suit the spatial requirement.
  3. Properly fabricated, it is more durable than most woods and much cheaper than reinforced concrete.
  4. 4 Being light-weight, its use leads to economy of design of the other architectural elements that may support ferrocement elements.
  5. Large span structures can be achieved with very minimal use of high-energy materials as the steel reinforcement is in the form of chicken mesh layers as opposed to reinforcement bars and this leads to sustainable solutions.

Large span structures can be achieved with very minimal use of high-energy materials as the steel reinforcement is in the form of chicken mesh layers as opposed to reinforcement bars and this leads to sustainable solutions.

(1 STULZ Roland; MUKERJI Kiran, Appropriate Building Materials: A Catalogue of Potential Solutions, SCAT, Swiss Centre for Appropriate Technology, St. Gallen, 1988, pp. 77ff.)
(2 SPENCER. J.; COOK J., Building Materials in Developing Countries, Chichester : John Wiley and Sons, pp. 220ff.)
(3 Report by the US National Academy of Sciences, 1973)