Graphic concrete is increasingly being used by architects for both small and large projects.
Invented by interior architect Samuli Naamanka, the patented precast concrete technology allows for textures, raster patterns, repeated patterns, written text, or even sharp images to be “etched” into the face of precast concrete elements.
This design is “printed” on the membrane using a surface retarder “ink”, and is produced by utilising the contrast between the smooth textures and the fine exposed aggregate surface.
The graphic concrete membrane has a maximum printable area that is 3200mm wide, and is supplied to precast yards in roll form. Therefore, the membrane can be used in the production of 3.2-metres wide/high elements without requiring membrane joints. Higher/wider elements can also be manufactured by joining membranes sections together.
Graphic concrete is also safe for the environment. The solvents used in the retarder can be evaporated, and when a membrane is peeled or stripped from a panel and rinsed it can be placed in a recycling bin.
Inspiration: below are six projects from around the world that have used graphic concrete.
NATIONAL ARCHIVE, DENMARK BY SCHMIDT HAMMER LASSEN ARCHITECTS
The National Archive’s interior is reflected to the exterior. Using graphic concrete, Schmidt Hammer Lassen has created images of floor-sized shelves on the building’s façade. Seen from the distance the idea is graphically clear with large shapes, while at close range it includes fine detail.
GEELONG LIBRARY AND HERITAGE CENTRE, AUSTRALIA BY ARM ARCHITECTURE
Photography by John Gollings
Image: Irwin Consult
A major architectural feature of Geelong Library and Heritage Centre in Victoria is the dynamic wall pattern developed by ARM Architecture. The pattern mimics the glazing form on the building’s other elevation and is achieved using a Reid GC Art and Design Graphic Paper with a special concrete mix containing black granite aggregates.
LES DOCKS LIBRES, FRANCE BY CARTA ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS AGENCY
The fresco on the façade of Les Docks Libres in Marseille features the characteristic symbols of Marseille throughout its 2600 years of history, from the arrival of the Greeks to today. Using graphic concrete on this project provided Carta Associates Architects Agency with various benefits – the lack of overhangs helped keep the patterned area clean and free of any kind of shadows, and the surface did not need any additional cladding or treatment after the elements had been installed. As a result, the surface is sustainable and essentially maintenance-free.
BRUNSWICK HOTEL, AUSTRALIA BY CAYAS ARCHITECTS
Photography by Jeremy Ward
Cayas Architects first approached Austral Precast in early 2013 to discuss the requirements for the Brunswick Hotel re-development in Brisbane. Determined to use precast panels on the extension, Austral Precast recommended graphic concrete (from Reid). Once the artwork files were approved for production, the GCPro membranes arrived in less than three weeks for casting.
WAURN PONDS POLICE & SES COMPLEX, AUSTRALIA BY STRATA PNA ARCHITECTS
A unique and distinctive facet of the architectural wall panel design was to replicate the topographical representation of the Waurn Ponds Creek on the 21 precast wall panels along the north-west corner of the complex. Instead of using a traditional formliner, Strata PNA Architects used graphic concrete.