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CREATIVE TENSION

Full-scale prototypes in the Topocast Lab netted the finished Cast Thicket, shown here in the UT Arlington School of Architecture Gallery.
Full-scale prototypes in the Topocast Lab netted the finished Cast Thicket, shown here in the UT Arlington School of Architecture Gallery.

St. Louis design studio yo_cy took first place in the APPLIED: Research through Fabrication competition with Cast Thicket, a precast piece that artists Kenneth Tracy and Christine Yogiaman dub “an exploration in tensile concrete.”

The competition was sponsored by TEX-FAB, a collaborative network of Texas designers focused on providing a platform to exchange ideas related to parametric design and digital fabrication. yo_cy enlisted Dallas-based TEX-FAB member Topocast to optimize Cast Thicket production transfer from St. Louis to the University of Texas at Arlington’s (UT Arlington) Topocast Lab.

The designers wanted a lightly colored material, something stronger than traditional concrete that would pick up light and shadow, thus highlighting surface details. Light colored limestone aggregate was used in the Cast Thicket concrete mix, along with limestone powder, white fiber reinforcement, Poraver glass beads for weight reduction, and metakaolin—a common material in porcelain and superplasticizer that reduces viscosity and binds the mixture.

Topocast provides design and consultation services on innovative casting methods through the application of digital fabrication technologies and parametric modeling. It offers design firms, artists, and individual clients solutions for unique needs in the application of complex casting geometries, plus prototyping and production services for a range of material type cast components, architectural pieces, art objects, and singular or repetitive molds. Topocast and Topocast Lab operate under TEX-FAB cofounder and UT Arlington Assistant Professor of Architecture Brad Bell, who has worked with the university’s Digital Fabrication Lab to pioneer curriculum and projects advancing casting technology through the academic community and manufacturing interests, including precast concrete producers.