EURODAL

My thesis project is about turning a car park into multi-generational council housing. A car park is mainly made of big concrete slabs, so as a sort of material research for my thesis project, I went to the company Eurodal, a Belgian manufacturer of industrial concrete floor slabs. I visited the company to have a closer look at the material concrete and how it’s made 

From the highway, I could already see the stacked-up piles of concrete slabs, which made me really eager and excited to see more. Philippe Segersone of the CEO’s of the company gave me a tour and a detailed explanation of the whole working process. 

At Eurodal they make the steel moulds for the concrete by themselvesThese moulds have a maximum size of 200x200mm. Different measurements are possible within the range of 200x200mm.  

First the mould gets a coating by a robot. This coating determines the finishing look in the end. In the earlier days, it was done by hand, but with the machine the coating is spread more evenly 

After the coating a steel grid is placed in the mould to create reinforced concrete. This is done to resist tensile stresses in particular regions of the concrete that might cause unacceptable cracking and/or structural failure. 

After that it’s time to put the mixture of water, aggregate, cement and additives in the mould. This mixture will harden to become concrete. Eurodal is a central mix plant which means they offer more accurate control of the concrete quality through better measurements of the amount of water added, but must be placed closer to the work site where the concrete will be used, since hydration begins at the plant. 

When the correct weight of the concrete is ready to be poured into the mould, the mould starts to vibrate, so that when the concrete sets in the mould, all the air bubbles can leave the concrete mass.  

After the concrete is dry, a robot takes the slab out the mould and adds 3 bricks on top of it, so the next one can be stacked upon it. 

Philippe explained to me which different finishes are possible and how they are made. They use mats with a certain structure that they put inside the mould before the concrete gets poured. In the product range they have brushed, checkerplate, wave and line finishes.  

Another nice feature he explained was how to make holes within the mould. They do this by using Styrofoam. When the concrete is dry they just knock the Styrofoam out and it leaves a beautiful shape.  

It was really nice to get a better insight into the process of creating concrete slabs and the different things you can do with the material and shapes.

BRIEF THESIS PROJECT

My interest for the topic of my thesis project started during the research for my dissertation about brutalism and a brutalist interior. During this search I figured out why I love brutalism so much and why I have such a big interest in this style.  

I like the way tower blocks are communities where all different kind of people are living and sharing at least one common thing, the tower, their building. The way this whole movement became an evolution of a certain way of thinking, of how we live together and how different cultures are brought together. 

It was all about the utopian belief in making new cities, making cities within cities and making a city within a building, creating high-density buildings. It’s about creating communities within a building.  

Aside from the positive thoughts the high-rise brutalist buildings brought with them, there were also a lot of negative critiques about these structures.  

Paved walking trails are pretty common in brutalist building projects. These ‘air paths’ for pedestrians were often places of criminality. Because of bad maintenance there were filthy slums, juvenility and the scary bits of society. In the end brutalism was often associated with poverty.  

Councils rehoused people from streets and neighbourhood communities, often breaking up extended families and destroying social links. The intimate association of house and street was ruptured. In particular, it meant that parents could not easily monitor children’s playtime.  

Peter Chadwick once said that there is this negative redundant space around the building which prompts anti-social behaviour. I can agree with that because I live in a 7- floor high brutalist tower block and I don’t know the people I live with because there is a lack of communication between the community. This is because there is not enough space, or at least space intended to start conversation. So first I thought about approaching this problem by creating little interventions within the communal spaces like the entrance, the elevator, the ‘air path’ and the roof. But this would become a too small scaled project, almost like a furniture installation.  

That’s when I started thinking on a largely bigger-scale idea. I wanted to reflect the positive and improve the negative elements of the brutalist high-rise interior into a similar structure. That’s when I came to the idea of a car park.  

You can’t go more brutal then a car park. A car park is designed for heavy and shifting loads of moving vehicles and the structures are made of heavy, chunky concrete. The structure of the building is left without any redundant ornaments. The building is there purely for its function. It is literally just stacking up floors vertically.  

Rethinking the function of a car park in London is actually something to really think about, especially in the nearby future. London is the most expensive city in the world to park your car. London has low levels of car ownership and it’s declining over the years because fewer young people in London consider having a car a necessity. Is there still a need for car parks? And what happens with them if they aren’t needed anymore?  

So I stranded upon this beautiful car park in Lewisham in South-East London, which is attached to a shopping centre. Lewisham is situated between Greenwich and Southwark. Why specifically that one? I had never been to Lewisham, but my practise mentor gave me the idea, because Lewisham is apparently upcoming and there is a planned regeneration of Lewisham town centre. A lot of new buildings are popping up and there are a lot of construction sites. I took the trainThe car park is within a 4-minute walk from the station. What shocked me is that there’s a waiting list of 14,000 people for council housing in Lewisham. So I really want my design to be council housing.  

In this car park I want to apply something of the way of the brutalist heroism to the idea of a new kind of interior, an improved brutalist interior, a Neo-Utopian interior.  

The built environment can be a challenging place for all of us, at every age and stage in our lives – whether as a child, adult, disabled, non-disabled, as part of our ageing population. How the home is affected as lifestyle and social/economic structures change through a life cycle is still a big challenge with the range of housing currently available. How does life changes from child to adult to old age affect the way we live? How does this approach the political and socio-economic side of living.  

In Belgium there is a new trend that’s called ‘Kangaroo Building’. The principle of kangaroo living is simple: old and young under one roof. The formula means that a younger couple moves in with an older couple. The original house has been converted into two separate dwellings. This has many advantages. For example, many young families that are inhibited by the high land and construction prices, can build. Older people, for whom their home is often too big when the kids are out of the house, can continue to live together "at home". In a broader sense, this means kangaroo is a win-win situation. The two entities enjoy each other's proximity and support each other. They retain their privacy and can still be assured that there is always someone nearby. As a resident of a kangaroo house, you decide how to live together-and-touch-apart- organizes.  

I want to propose a concept, plan, strategy, and building form that can work for people of all ages, paying particular attention to personal, social and economic changes in people’s lives over time. The aim is to foster more inclusive intergenerational communities. The multi-generation module will be designed to be inclusive for all, and can accommodate varied and changing life styles over time.  

It will be all about understanding the people – their needs, their concerns, and what they really want from a building – and engaging the more social aspects of the built environment that others overlook.  

It will be a concept that addresses the use of space throughout our lifecycle 

I will do this on the 3th, 4th and 5th floor of the car park and take sections as the Trellick Tower and Unite d’Habitation as inspiration.  

As my Artefact I created a construction of tetris-shaped blocks in different materials which are aging in 3 stages. “Generations” come in contact with each other and the open space between them is communal space to engage communication.  

MARGATE - ARLINGTON HOUSE/SQUARE, DREAMLAND

Not only the sandy beaches attracted the Londoners to Margate, but also the Dreamland amusement park situated in the city centre. It was opened in 1920. In 2003 Dreamland closed its doors and was supposed to be redeveloped. After public pressure against the redevelopment, Dreamland was preserverd but remained unused. Nowadays Dreamland is planning to open again, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Next to Dreamland we find the Arlington Building with Arlington Square and a multi-level car park attached to it. Arlington House is a 58-metre high eighteen-storey residential apartment block. It was built in 1964, has 142 apartments, and was designed by Russell Diplock & Associates. The building is a typical Brutalist building because of the use of heavy materials like concrete and its minimalistic form. The East and West facades of the building imitate the waves breaking on the beach and enable flats in the building to have both waterfront and country side views. Arlington Square and the car park are still closed and abandoned.

At the moment Margate looks a bit like a ghost town, but there are plans to make it attractive again.