What am I working on?

October 26, 2010 — 22 Comments

Currently, I am working on a residential project – a really large modern residential project. It’s unique compared to our other projects because it is basically commercial construction – cast in place concrete, steel superstructure, and composite floors (steel decking and concrete).

Did I mention it’s 4 stories and on a lot that is 50′ wide and 225′ long? There aren’t a lot of residential sites in Dallas that have those dimensions – oh yeah, it also is hemmed in on 3 sides and slopes down from the street about 10′. Getting water off this property is difficult – can you say “bathtub”? There are dozens of architectural firms who wanted this job and rightly so – it’s a fantastic commission and the site is physically a challenge which makes for an exciting project. I have already been on this job for almost a year and we have about another year of construction left so I’ll put up some isolated progress photos from time to time.

Today, I thought I’d show some of the concrete form work and illustrate some of the concrete texture patterns we are trying to achieve.


Rebar Tunnel

Hard to believe but this is a tunnel that connects the lower levels at the front and rear of the site. There is an underground parking garage and we have 12′ high of cast-in-place concrete wall for the entire perimeter of the house. The picture above was taken about 3 weeks ago.


Form-work Tunnel

Fast forward 2 weeks and the form-work is just about completed. Part of the design includes a wood grain pattern on the concrete so as the site slopes down, the wood grain will become exposed as the site falls away. This is the same tunnel as earlier.


Form-work Detail


Heavy Duty Form-work

I have to admit, this is the first residential job where we needed this level of bracing – crazy looking isn’t  it?


Installing wood for pattern

So here is a picture of the wood boards being installed on the inside of the form-work. This is the surface that the concrete will be cast against. When the form-work is taken down, these boards will leave behind the pattern that we are looking to develop.


wood boards - detail

This picture is taken at the transition between the portion of the basement wall that becomes exposed as you move towards the rear of the site.


Concrete Pour - Pumper Truck

If I remember correctly, there were 20 concrete mixers spaced to make deliveries 15 minutes apart – that’s 5 hours of constant concrete trucks coming and leaving the site. The contractor did a good job of orchestrating all the moving parts on this day and we didn’t have any complications or missteps.


Concrete Texture

This is a picture from approximately 2 weeks ago after the form-work had been removed. I am standing on the outside of the building – on the right is the retaining wall for the site and on the left is the basement wall running around the perimeter of the building. You can see the intent of the wood pattern on the concrete – that despite concrete having a reputation for being gray and cold, the wood grain and pattern of the boards goes a long way of softening the final look.


Concrete Texture - detail

A close-up look of a portion of the wall – I think it looks pretty good and I think once this material gets married with the remaining materials (dark zinc metal siding and stucco), I think it will come together really nicely.



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  • Larry

    What species of wood did you use and what was the finish on the wood? Were you happy with this wood, or would you have used a different type once you saw the final finish?

  • Brian

    Bob, are you sure you were the 2009 AIA Young Architect of the Year? Have you changed your name because I do not see your name of the list. Did you mean AIA Texas?


    • Anonymous

      Good point – I should clarify that is was Dallas AIA Young Architect of the Year

  • David Hooper

    Hello Bob – Who did the geotech for this one?

    • Anonymous

      Hi David –

      I don’t know who did it. The first group of service providers were asked to leave the project but the owner kept some of the previous consultants (including structural) so the geotech had been done a few years before we were retained.

      Hope things are well

  • I don’t think it looks sloppy, I think it’s honest.

    I’m a fellow architect enjoying your blog, thanks.

    • Anonymous

      I probably shouldn’t have said sloppy – to be a bit more articulate I should have said that for the level of expense and finish on this project, we are looking for a more regular and controlled finished product. While I support highlighting the integrity of these materials, this particular level of irregularity was not the desired effect.

      Doesn’t that make me sound all architect-y?
      Thanks Lee – I appreciate you taking time to say hello.

  • Ebogan63

    Good choice of zinc metal siding, it should provide a good balence between the textured concrete on the perimiter wall. Love your detail work, Bob!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, I appreciate that.

      The zinc siding we aare using is a really dark gray – almost black. There isn’t a ton of it – a few key places to differentiate the massing, but is has a really great finish on it and is also very warm. It might be the finish I am most excited about.

  • Larry Bloom, AIA

    Whoa! Love the concrete work! That is fantastic. Yes, I can see the Ando style. Although it does remind me of Piano or Kahn’s concrete work. Can’t wait to see more and glad to know you didn’t have issues.

    • Anonymous


      Thanks for the compliment but let’s tap the brakes a little on the comparison’s. The only thing similar is that they used concrete and we used concrete. I hope things are well, you’re getting your exercise and taking your pills…

      I did however to see the concrete finish improve – we did learn a few things but that’s why the rear of the building was poured first. The large concrete mass at the front of the building will look even better!

      • Larry Bloom, AIA

        Ha! Hmmm, you’d think an unemployed architect could fit more exercise time in…but I digress. That’s why I used the word “remind.” I once tried to convince Grahm Greene at Oglesby Greene to do something similar on a design I was doing production documents for – he was convinced that workers here could never get it right for the money.

  • Jlh

    Wonderful to see wood framing for concrete work! Never happens (any more) over here!! Would love to see a few plans, though! Having a time trying to figure out how it all works! Looks great so far!!

  • Morgan Robert Murphy

    I enjoy the over injected ‘weeping mortar-ish’ texture the wall received between the panels wood formwork pattern. Really does a wonderful job of bringing a linear value to the house, but I am sure you already knew that. ha.

    • Anonymous

      We have actually been discussing what to do (the extent) with those concrete ledges. Most of them get snapped off when the board is removed with little pieces left behind. Even though I like them, I think we will eventually remove them. In their wake are left horizontal stripes that convey the horizontality quite well.

      In other words, we don’t want it to look sloppy or accidental.

      • MRM

        I can see where a general reaction to leaving them might immediately direct the professional mind to receive them as accidental, sloppy, rushed, or possibly a detail missed all together. Also the extrusion would most likely take away from the detailed wood grain pattern, some might say, “if you were planning on leaving the extrusion why even pick a specific wood pattern, or even have one at all, right?”

        I’m not exactly sure what draws me to the details of the crumbling overflow of concrete, but it seems like a technique which could be augmented in other ways to design an interesting ornamented facade. For instance creating a facade pattern that responds directly to accepting the extra overflow? Who knows, that idea still may not prevent the accidental or sloppy feeling?

  • Elizabeth O’Brien

    What did you do with the wood formwork after it was removed?

    • Anonymous

      It get’s reused. Concrete companies never seem to throw anything away. When the form-work was dismantled, every piece was sorted into piles based on materials and sizes and collected.

      Good question!

  • Very cool. I’m really happy that the wood formwork is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. It had almost become a lost art form with the emergence of plywood in the 50s and the pervasive Ando squares with the decorative tie rods.

    • Anonymous

      I like it too. The Ando work, with it’s fiberglass faced form-work, it is beautifully slick and ethereal to touch but I think it comes off a little too cold for me. Maybe in small doses…

  • That looks complicated. Just your kind of challenge! Have fun!