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Concrete Stories

Wednesday 6 October 2021, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Sarah Nichols (Rice University, Texas)


What is embedded in material or, respectively, architecture? Addressing this question reveals the entanglements that bring architecture into being—organizations and knowledge, energy and labor, and extraction and emission. By taking up this lens, building can be thought of as a long process of formation that happens through both material and immaterial means, neither beginning nor ending with the construction site but rather stretched across territories and through time, intimately linking seemingly disparate agencies together. By reviewing approximately a century of cement and concrete in Switzerland, this talk will examine the relations between institutions, discourse, and technology as they intersect in the material. The establishment of organizations, ideas, and techniques from the late 19th century through the end of the interwar period will be shown to be linked to the mass deployment of concrete in the Postwar period. In doing so, this talk will discuss the methodological considerations of a research subject that is ubiquitous. Drawing from archival material for a forthcoming exhibition at the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel, this talk will also consider the varied and sometimes conflicting ways that materials are conceptually constructed. 

Image caption: Concrete playground at Primary School "Im Moos,” Rüschlikon Switzerland, Jakob Zweifel, Heinrich Strickler, Bernard Schorderet (1966-1971)

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