My third year in architecture school is done. Horraaah! The worst is over! Looking back, I don’t really know how I survived that final month of academic hell, which consisted of deadlines upon deadlines upon deadlines, and final exams sandwiched right in between plate submissions. I do think my entire third year journey deserves a post of its own — a long and dramatic one, at that–so I will leave those ugly details for later.
This post focuses on our cute little concrete slab for construction class. My group (a team of four people) conceptualized, designed, and executed the building of a 1.5m x 1.5m slab. This was for what I believe is going to be a cat sanctuary in my college, as planned by our construction professors. (Side note: my university is wack and my college, even weirder). Each group was afforded the creative liberty to do whatever they pleased. We were restricted only by the space to build on and the fact that the slab had to be functional.
Here it is from start to completion!
The image below is a rendered digital model of our design. We didn’t want to make anything wild, because that’d take too much effort (heh). We also wanted to integrate landscaping elements into the slab.
We chose the hexagon as our main geometric motif because it’s not as basic as a circle or a square, and it also has cool geometric qualities. (Look at those cool angles!) Aesthetically, we were going for something futuristic and galactic. I suppose the slab looks like a cross between a microchip and spaceship wall detail.
-Pebble wash for big hexagons
-Soil and grass for middle hexagons.
I wasn’t able to take any photos of the initial stages of the slab construction, when we were mixing the base concrete layer or creating the formworks. Sigh. But do know that that process took quite a while! We first cut out pieces from long wooden planks to make our form works. We also sliced rebars and tied them together in a grid. Then, we mixed cement, sand, and aggregates to the correct proportion, and filled up these little buckets until they were too heavy to carry alone. After pouring, we left the concrete to dry.
Next we had to make the form works, which was another struggle in and of itself. Chopping the 3/4 in thick plywood with our professor’s electrically powered tool was fine, I guess, but CUTTING THE EDGES IN 30 DEGREE ANGLES WAS CLOSE TO IMPOSSIBLE. It was also dangerous since you had to angle the woodcutting tool, and that’s just not a good idea considering how heavy the thing is.
My groupmate spent a good 2 hours trying to figure out the right process for this thing we’ve never done. During this time, my other groupmate and I decided to go to the College of Fine Arts to see if they had any proper woodcutting tools.
Luckily (and I should say extremely luckily), we ran into a department professor who was overseeing a woodcutting workshop in the college. He allowed us to use this huge machine and even asked one of the workers to cut angles on all of our form works. This all happened within that afternoon, which is crazy considering you usually have to write a letter and wait for a few days to do this.
Anyway, we assembled the form works in the college of architecture and laid them out on our slab. The image below is of my groupmates trying to smooth the topmost layer. The rocks are to hold the form works in place.
We made the pebble wash after, but it didn’t turn out that nice. Sigh.
Another tidbit: working under the sun during the summer months is like living inside an oven. We ended up assembling a makeshift lean-to to help us work faster. I find this pretty cute.
This is the slab with most of the form works removed. Notice the little lines around each hexagon. My group mate etched those with a fork while the concrete was a little moist.
Proceeded to a park to buy some greens for our planters. Ended up getting a tiny plant that also worked as an air purifier!
All that was left was the assembling of the planters. That took an entire afternoon.
We added white rocks to make the plant boxes seem more full.
And voila! The finished product! We couldn’t take one of the form works out because it was embedded too deeply into the concrete. Might go back tomorrow to take it out and fix everything.
But that is it for this enjoyable (but equally taxing) exercise. Listed below are a few of the insights I personally gained from this plate:
- Erecting structures is truly difficult. I have this newfound respect for construction workers. We took about 5-7 days just creating a 1 x 1 floor slab. Imagine what it’d be like for a 30-story building.
- Concrete is terrible for the skin. Wash it all out as soon as it hits you. Wear nothing but ugly, disposable clothes on site.
- LOOK OUT FOR NAILS STICKING OUT OF DISPOSED PLYWOOD. I accidentally stepped on a nail while skipping to get water. Had to be rushed to the Health Center, and got 3 needle shots on my arms. WATCH OUT.
- Cover the slab when you’re not working on it. Rainwater might ruin the consistency of the concrete.
- In conceptualizing a design, feasibility is probably the most important parameter. A lot of our classmates had to redo their slab designs because they couldn’t be executed.
And this brings us to the end of this post. If anyone is even reading this, I hope you enjoyed learning about slab construction as much as I lived it.