Somethin' New From Chemistry
September 10, 2009 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Graphic Concrete is a process with which textures, patterns, typography, images, or works of art can be "printed" on concrete surfaces, with subtle and dramatic results. Invented by Finnish designer and architect Samuli Naamanka, Graphic Concrete is being used in projects all over the globe.
posted by mattdidthat (21 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

I really like this one. Cool stuff.
posted by threetoed at 10:03 PM on September 10, 2009

Heh. I'd managed to work out what they did just before I got to a picture of the last part of the process.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:16 PM on September 10, 2009

Very nice. That could make bare concrete almost bearable. A few of the pictures show it on coloured concrete, but I wonder if it would stand up to being painted over? Tagging graffiti happens, and the usual cure is a coat of paint. But with this, it may not be a good solution.

Also, the "all over the globe" link only shows projects existing in Europe. Anything that covers less than 3 continents doesn't count as worldwide.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 10:39 PM on September 10, 2009

Oh, & the title's misleading. This uses computer-generated bas-relief negative molds, with rougher surfaces looking darker in light coming in at an angle. The concrete isn't colored for this effect, so I think graffiti could just be painted over without too much problem.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:55 PM on September 10, 2009

Light emitting concrete
posted by hortense at 11:03 PM on September 10, 2009

This is rad. Concrete is such a great material. This allows it to be more "designed" and less austere.
posted by quadog at 12:04 AM on September 11, 2009

Ah damn it. This is another one of those things I think I invented... Well thought of, somewhat, a while ago...

Helping my father on some concrete laying (he's a builder) about 10 years ago, I watched him apply a light spray of retarder to the surface of concrete (it stops the top layers from setting as quickly as the rest, so it can be hosed off for an exposed aggregate look) and thought about the idea of creating images with the process, or even possibly a screenprint process.

It seems that's basically what they do here, although rather than screening it directly onto the web concrete, they create a membrane with the image, rendered in retarder, on the surface, and apply that membrane to the concrete... I could have figured that out! I'd be rich!

More impressive, I think, would be applying it to existing concrete. But I guess that could be achieved with some sort of high-pressure water blasting system.
posted by sycophant at 12:51 AM on September 11, 2009

sycophant, yeah my father used to do specialty concrete, and the hardening retarder for the expose aggregate look was one of the things we did. I'd like to see if you cold get deep images carved in relief into the slabs, rather than this surface effect.

Exposed aggregate, btw, is when you cast concrete slabs that have pebbles and such in them, and a retardant sprayed on the form causes the outside not to harden, so the all the pebbles are visible when the outer layer is washed off.

The coolest thing we did was cast a tip-up wall on the ground, with baseball sized rocks on the ground, covered with polyethylene. The effect effect was like a quilted upholstery fabric made of cement.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:13 AM on September 11, 2009

No, no, no, please. Not more concrete... Has all memory of 1960s and 70s architectural monstrosities melted away? Because I can tell you, these... concrete... nightmares don't melt away, but hang around forever, blighting cities and ruining neighborhoods. Gussying them up with patterns is like putting wallpaper on a tank.
posted by Faze at 4:17 AM on September 11, 2009

very cool. i have zero abilities in the building/construction arena, but i'm planning on trying my hand at papercrete sometime this winter.

and faze .... pphhttt. concrete is sustainable, durable, termite proof! very very important here in the south, and can be quite lovely.
posted by msconduct at 5:33 AM on September 11, 2009

Graphic Concrete is being used in projects all over the globe Europe - but mostly Finland.
posted by bigmusic at 5:55 AM on September 11, 2009

This technology is here in the U.S. too. We were talking with our contractor about having our basement finished, including putting in a tile floor. Our contractor showed us some colorized concrete, patterned concrete, etc., and explained how much cheaper it'd be than tile. Plus, I also think he was fascinated by the technology, which he'd never used before. But then the Great Recession hit, and we pulled back and postponed the renovation for now. But we're leaning toward this concrete stuff, not JUST to save some moolah, but also because I was impressed with the sheer beauty of some of the samples we were shown.
posted by jamstigator at 6:09 AM on September 11, 2009

Does it make me shallow that I want this for my driveway?

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 AM on September 11, 2009

Also, the contribution of exposed concrete to dystopian sci fi concept art can't be overstated--lots of props for that. In most hands it ends up looking like Stalinesque bunkers (cheap Stalinesque bunkers) but it can have a great austere anti-human beauty. If Piranesi were re-imagining the Carceri d'invenzione etchings now I have no doubt they would look like Paul Rudolph, only more so.
posted by jfuller at 7:10 AM on September 11, 2009

This is a great development. nevertheless, the problem isn't the material, it's the application - concrete is what it is, and if architects design brutal and ugly buildings, it's their own damn fault. I love concrete, it's an awesome material and has an elegant and subtle beauty that is easy to miss. It's unforgiving though, if used improperly.

Scale and proportion are more important than ornamentation and embellishment.

Note: the link pics really don't do this building justice. You really have to stand next to it or in the foyer to feel the oppression oozing from it. The foyer has a wall of lights "randomly" scattered behind translucent fiberglass the effect of a wall of light that has been very poorly maintained with burnt out light bulbs everywhere.

Another rule of design: if it looks like you fucked up, you did.
posted by Xoebe at 8:16 AM on September 11, 2009

Wow I had no idea that the term was brutalist - but looking at the images Xoebe linked my brain immediately called up several images of buildings I'd seen in the past. They definitely stand out next to other buildings.

Meanwhile my first thought for this concrete was also "better driveways and sidewalks" - mainly because they're the largest spaces with concrete that I see daily. Though I have to wonder whether (when the process becomes cheap enough to be commonly used) homeowners are going to immediately start putting things like sports team logos on their driveways - I can see future neighborhood association arguments coming out of this.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:53 PM on September 11, 2009

Concrete conga tone test.
posted by hortense at 8:57 PM on September 11, 2009

Yeah, all buildings these days seem to be plain, glass-clad boxes. At least in the '70s people took risks with architecture and ended up with some awesome, if not "pretty" buildings. Of course, the down-side is that you screw up now and again and end up with an unfixable monstrosity.

The patterned concrete is nice, but sort of not really new at all except maybe in application. The translucent concrete, now that's cool.
posted by dg at 5:33 AM on September 12, 2009

Naamanka's patent application.

And batgrlHG does have a serious point. While the designs in the pictures are both pretty and clever, this is a technology with a huge potential for disaster. Definitely to be kept out of some people's hands (untalented architects and artists as much as tasteless homeowners).
posted by Skeptic at 8:16 AM on September 12, 2009

"Not more concrete... Has all memory of 1960s and 70s architectural monstrosities melted away? Because I can tell you, these... concrete... nightmares don't melt away, but hang around forever, blighting cities and ruining neighborhoods. Gussying them up with patterns is like putting wallpaper on a tank."

Well concrete is used in all sorts of civil engineering projects from overpasses to dams. Sure would be cool is say the face of the hoover dam had a picture on it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 PM on September 12, 2009

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