Concrete Design Competition & Master Class on Monolithic

The fourth Concrete Design Competition was led by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. The theme he set, Monolithic, invites to explore the opportunities and possibilities to truly built in one material and to built from one idea. To discover concrete as a structural and aesthetic material, developing architecture that stands out for its strong and clear appearance.

2009 - 2010

concept, coordination & management, tutoring, publication

valerio olgiati on one idea

Siebe Bakker in conversation with Valerio Olgiati on 'one idea'. This conversation took place as exploration of the theme of the Concrete Design Competition on MONOLITHIC, curated by Valerio Olgiati.

conversation, film & editing
Siebe Bakker


Monolithic - exploring versatility

DICTIONARY (Webster's Third New International Dictionary)
mono.lith.ic 1a: formed or carved from a single block of stone b: made up of monoliths 3a: of a concrete structure: cast as a single piece 4: constituing one massive undifferentiated whole exhibiting solid uniformity often without diversity or variability. 1a: marked by a tendency to change : fluctuating readily : changeable, variable 2a: adapted to or embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills b: having a capacity for turning with ease from one thing to another : having a wide range of skills, aptitudes, or interests : many-sided 4a: having many uses or applications 5: diversified

Concrete does not have a material-inherent material expression (texture). The production process, the choice of materials for the formwork and the treatment of the formwork together with application of additives, defines the appearance of objects. Concrete can obtain almost all tactile expressions. From abstract expressions like in very smooth surfaces to a concrete with the ‘memory’ of craftsmanship (beton-brut).

Concrete does not have a material-inherent form. It is the production process of concrete objects that defines its form. Because of this, concrete (reinforced concrete) can take any form/shape. (Contrary to modular construction materials;e.g. bricks)

From a structural point of view concrete has a further, singular property; in collaboration with reinforcement it can bear up both tensile and compressive forces. Lightweight (foamed) concrete floats, ‘dämmbeton’ insulates, concrete can be produced under water, concrete structures can be filigrane or robust. Concrete as and in itself does not have a quality, it can however be transformed (simply by applying it) into almost anything. Concrete is omni potential. Concrete offers architects the possibility to construct a building out of one material, a monolith.

Valerio Olgiati has built numerous projects in concrete. These do not have a specific formal expression. Nevertheless, the signature of the designer can be clearly read due to the efforts to base a building on one idea; to maintain a ‘total’ in which each element of the building is indispensable and crucial to the whole. Concrete is the ideal building material to succeed in this, it does not contain in itself a specific expression. It offers possibilities to construct all building elements out of the same material, a monolith.

Concrete Design Master Class on Monolithic

The 4th concrete design master class took place during the last week of August 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey. During the one week event, led by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati, 22 students gathered to work on exploring the potential of concrete in the city of Istanbul. Valerio Olgiati started the master class with a lecture introducing the students to his architectural practice. His ambitions, visions and position towards architecture and engineering were presented through a selection of his concrete works.

Valerio Olgiati's aim for the master class was to search for, discuss and document the city's use of concrete. The process of the master class was based on three criteria; a project's obvious exploitation of characteristic concrete properties - including execution and appearance, the prototypical quality of a project presenting a specific Istanbul typology, or the undeniable presence of amazement, bewilderment or sheer respect: the 'wow-factor'.

Equipped with cameras the participants walked the city in pairs in search of concrete. Each pair covered a specific sector of the centre of Istanbul. Including both sides of the Golden Horn as well as part of Asian Istanbul on the east side of the Bosporus. All concrete projects - which could range from urban furniture, to structural applications and from detailed ornaments to the practical means of working with concrete - had to be documented through a maximum of three images. No textual explanation should be needed to understand the nature and impact of the projects.

During a day-long critique all projects found were discussed at length in order to define their position in relation to the three criteria mentioned above. A critique that aimed to place the projects not only securely into the framework of the master class itself, but also to activate discussions on more general architectural topics, specific technical possibilities of the material concrete and the required ambitions and skills of architects in order to deliver fabulous works. The discussion's intention was to improve the focus where necessary and to gain an overall understanding of the state of concrete in Istanbul for those present, as well. Out of the presented projects a selection was made through a process of voting and further debating which led to this publication. Its aim is not to deliver a complete guide of all concrete to be found in Istanbul, nor does it aspire to represent the city's urban and architectural developments. It offers a view into a fascinating and exciting metropolis documenting its concrete nature through projects that inspire, amaze and sometimes simply had to be included for no other reason than of what they are.

This Master Class was the final part of the Concrete Design Competition on Monolithic 2009-2010. It is the 4th biennial cycle initiated and funded by a consortium of European cement and concrete associations. Curated by Valerio Olgiati architecture and engineering students were invited to explore and exploit the monolithic properties of concrete as well as its versatility. The entries had to present their ideas through architectural designs that were reviewed by nationally organised juries. All national winners were invited to take part in the master class in Istanbul.

Jarlath Cantwell, Lâle Ceylân, Pierre Escobar, Andrew Hamon, Çagrı Helvacıoglu, Bjorn Kasandikromo, Boris Koch, Donal Lally, Deborah Levy, Rob Moore, Moritz Nicklaus, Nathaniel Rijsmus, Patrick O’Connor, Özgür Savas Özer, Simon Scheithauer, Darren Snow, Lukas Stopczynski, Thijs Storms, Ljuba Tascheva, Maxime Togni, Yannick Vanhaelen, Franz van Wietersheim

Valerio Olgiati

Siebe Bakker, Ifke Brunings, Pascal Flammer, Patricia Hessing

Irem Çiçek, Handan Kırımtay, Yelta Köm, Tamara Olgiati

Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi - Prof. Dr. Orhan Hacıhasanoglu

BDZ - Torsten Förster
Cement&BetonCentrum - Hans Köhne
Cement Manufacturers Ireland - Richard Bradley
FEBELCEM - Jef Apers
TCMA - Çaglan Becan

Irem Çiçek & Yelta Köm