This Blog features a mix of Alexa`s research, academic and co-creation projects as well as artistic work. A glimpse behind the scenes of projects, workshops, design processes, production runs and photoshoots. Enjoy!

Concrete Seminar

„Academic teaching without research is blind, research without teaching is mute.“ said Rudolf Haas in „The Future of the University“. It is quite clear that there are different ways for research to gain attention, but one of the most elementary ways is to bring scientific knowledge into academic education: the advancement of the junior scientific staff which will continue research work based on scientific methods. Inspired by the current research work of the Institute of Structural Design within the DFG-priority program 1542, „Light concrete construction“ aroused the consideration of how to awake the students interest in to the topic of UHPCs (Ultra-high-performance-concrete) with their various number of possible applications. The seminar project called „Furniture Design and Construction consisting of high-performance concrete“ was implemented in collaboration with the iBmB (Institute for Building Materials, Concrete Construction and Fire Protection) of the University of Braunschweig and in cooperation with designer Alexa Lixfeld from Hamburg.

The students participating in this seminar are normally used to designing buildings, but designing furniture has similar aspirations to design, functional construction and suitability of materials. One of the obvious advantages of designing furniture, instead of buildings, is the possibility of realizing them in original size. The project had two major aims. On the one hand, it ought be used to facilitate knowledge, on the other hand, it should work as an interdisciplinary melting pot between the dissociated disciplines of architects and civil engineers by working together and contributing the different kinds of knowhow. Hence, the cooperative designing process was expected to really bring these two groups together.

When the seminar was first introduced at the TU Braunschweig in the summer semester of 2012, the students‘ enthusiastic response was quite surprising and exceeded all expectations of its initiators. Hence, the planned course size of 16 participants had to be more than doubled to a number of 35. Despite the already existing synergies of knowhow and experience between architecture and civil engineering students, the development of furniture made of high-performance concrete required a high level of previous knowledge which had to be acquired beforehand. Apart from analogous work methods, digital workflow with a focus on design, construction and suitability to material production was also part of the course. Numerous topics were covered in workshops which were supported by guest lecturers. The different topics included design, practice of the planning tool Rhinoceros 3D, material technology of high-performance concrete, digital and analogous formwork construction, and concrete casting. Furthermore, the whole course went on a field trip to the Institute of Concrete Construction of the Technical University of Dresden to get an introduction on the subject of carbon fiber reinforcement. In Dresden the students also had the chance to talk to some experts of a concrete design company named „Paulsberg“, who were willing to share their experiences with furniture construction.

Simultaneous to the workshops, the participating students were to develop an individual furniture design implementing the newly learned elements. The designs were presented to the tutors during individual „feedback appointments“ to improve their quality. In a subsequent phase of group work, the finished single designs were used as a basis to develop new design in cooperation. In the group phase as well as in the individual phase, analogous and digital design and execution drawings had to be made. These included details, formwork concepts and reinforcement concepts. Part of the final work also was the production of a real-size sample. All those attending the seminar went through a phase of intense, committed work whose results were representative, and are presented in a detailed, printed documentation / book . 

The seminar still remains a remarkable and interesting experience for all participating students, tutors, and guest lecturers. We would like to thank all persons involved for their good cooperation and support.

Text: Dipl.-Ing. Jeldrik Mainka


TU Braunschweig / Institut für Tragwerksentwurf

Univ.- Prof. Dr.-Ing. Harald Kloft

Dipl.-Ing. Jeldrik Mainka

Dipl.-Ing. Lukas Ledderose M.A.

Dipl.-Des. Alexa Lixfeld