Global Magazine of the Concrete Society – Eye of the Storm Table
Eye of the Storm Table
Armourcoat, a manufacturer of innovative surface finishes and sculptural effects, collaborated recently with UK furniture designer Steuart Padwick on the Eye of the Storm concrete table. This highly original concept design, made from Ductal ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC), was launched at Clerkenwell Design Week 2014 in London. Multi-award-winning designer Steuart Padwick is known for his warm, witty and sculptural furniture, with sleek lines and his trademark attention to leg design. Concrete report.
The Eye of the Storm shows how UHPC is ideally suited to furniture design, allowing unusually thin sections with an outstanding level of surface finish detail. Its strength and durability is even greater than natural stone and it possesses a combination of superior properties including strength, ductility, durability and enhanced aesthetics. It can also be pigmented to a range of colours. This enables designers to realise new sculptural approaches to concrete forms. Armourcoat holds the first sublicence (from Lafarge) to manufacture Ductal precast elements in the UK. Ductal is significantly stronger and denser than conventional concrete and provides superior resistance to abrasion, chemical resistance, freeze thaw, carbonation and chloride ion penetration. Its denseness, along with nanometer-sized non-connected pores throughout its cementitious matrix, attributes to its remarkable imperviousness and durability against adverse conditions or aggressive agents:
- Exceptional resistance under tension and compression, eight to ten times better than conventional concrete, due to the flexibility of its cementitious matrix and fibrous composition (between 2 and 4% in volume)
- Removal of passive macro-reinforcement in many applications, which facilitates the creation of extremely thin complex forms of large dimensions.
- Exceptional durability (100 X greater than conventional concrete, depending on the criteria) and excellent resistance to external aggressions such as abrasion, impacts, saline environments or extremely low temperatures.
- It is self-compacting and easy to pour, even in complex mould shapes.
- Due to its very low porosity, it offers exceptional durability and resistance to external effects such as abrasion, impact and chloride environments.
- It can also be cast in displacement casting and drycast applications.
The Eye of the Storm is a concept table, designed as a six-seater, with dimensions of 1800 (width) x 1100 (depth) x 725mm (height). Padwick says, Ductal is widely used in construction, from bridges to facades to buildings. It is a comparatively new material and I would love to see more of it being used in furniture.
The material is comparatively easy to mould in the same way as regular concrete, but a much easier material to use than plastic. It suits small-scale production. One shortfall for any form of concrete in domestic furniture is its weight, but the very weight could be a bonus for commercial/contract furniture for example, outdoor restaurant tables, where the weight makes them less likely to be stolen.
Padwick says the mould production for the table was quite involved. We use many different techniques for mould making but for this particular table we used a combination of fibreglass, silicone, melamine-faced MDF and vinyl stencilling.
The negative table-top mould uses a combination of silicone upstands and vinyl stencils on the surface to create the different levels of relief and cut-through elements seen on the final product. Due to the detailed nature of the product, this had to be done far more carefully than usual concrete casting. We used a mixture of different frequency vibrations and small hand poured amounts of material to ensure minimum air entrapment and maximum reach of the material into the tapered edges, says Padwick.
Creating the mould took much more time than making the table, to ensure all the shapes would come away when the mould was removed and also connecting the 12 legs to the top.
Padwick adds, “I wanted to express the scope of possibilities one could achieve with this material but also using comparatively low-tech casting techniques. Using high-pressure casting would have been very expensive. Not only is Ductal up to 100 times the strength of regular concrete but you can also cast intricate detail within it.”
The polished surface is straight from the mould. If the mould is polished, so is the resultant object; likewise for any texture or pattern in the mould. The rest of the design just came from experimenting with shapes and textures. All the positioning of the holes and legs and tracery is done by hand without any measuring it just needed to be visually balanced, and not precisely placed.
I wanted the slightly random chaos of the positions. The calm oval in the middle of the rest of the chaotic holes dimples and tracery, coined the name ‘Eye of the Storm’ it is the calm in the middle of the chaos.
Neither Armourcoat, nor I, had done anything like this. The table was a conceptual piece, an experiment. It was never conceived as a commercial piece but the response and intrigue has been fantastic.