Is it possible to move beyond the rigid limits of traditional concrete to creatively enhance public spaces?
Specialising in concrete since 1886 – concrete street furniture, concrete paving and architectural concrete – Escofet has recently developed a lighter, thinner and more sustainable version, Slimconcrete®. We met Escofet architect Enric Pericas, to discuss the implications of this innovative new material.
Escofet, accompanied by great designers from Gaudí to Jean Nouvel, has been extolling the benefits of concrete for over 130 years. How do you think your company has survived for so long?
Escofet has remained true to its founding principles of authored products, and design has been the focus of our company strategy since its origins in 1886. For the last 130 years, Escofet has been practising what is now called product editing. Yet, we had to wait 125 years until 2011 to be awarded the Design Management Prize by the Chamber of Commerce in recognition of our long history in the mature yet complex industry of concrete paving, street furniture and architectural concrete manufacture. Escofet has survived for so long because it has always achieved an excellent return on investment and also because of the ongoing emphasis on technological innovation.
Why did you develop the new material known as Slimconcrete®?
Slimconcrete® is the term we give to all our UHPC concrete products. ESCOFET has always been committed to searching for new paths and challenges. Our brand is known for its firm commitment to research and creativity. We are constantly exploring new ways to move forward, incorporate new art forms, apply new technologies and, ultimately, create new products that are lighter, more beautiful and more environmentally friendly. Slimconcrete® is a perfect example of this commitment.
The exceptional resistance of this concrete permits the creation of very finely structured objects, which opens up exciting possibilities for street furniture and industrial design.
Yes, Slimconcrete® technology allows us to move beyond the limits we used to take for granted. With this new technology it is now possible to bend, twist and reduce surfaces to slender sheets, which until very recently was incompatible with the rigid nature of concrete. Lightness and subtlety have triumphed over stiffness and weight. Concepts like thinness, strength, durability and sustainability are now shaping the vocabulary of street furniture in a more palpable era.
Which of your current projects use this new technology?
At Escofet, we are now applying Slimconcrete® technology to the development of new products in three divisions: pavements, architectural elements and urban elements. We are now able to produce extremely hard and resistant pavements for outdoor environments, extremely light architectural panels and a new generation of urban elements that are transforming pre-conceived ideas about concrete street furniture.
The unique feel and sensuality of the concrete gives street furniture a more human dimension, with a surprising degree of warmth and intimacy. How have your clients and everyday users reacted?
The architects and designers who’ve been invited to develop new products using Slimconcrete® have all reacted enthusiastically. After overcoming the initial astonishment at this material’s potential, their immediate reaction is, “I want to design a product for your catalogue”.
How are you going to use Slimconcrete® in urban environments? What kind of innovations are you hoping to explore in the coming years?
This week, we published a design competition for a new seat, preferably using Slimconcrete® technology on our website. This is organised by Escofet in collaboration with the Madrid Architects’ Guild’s “Think Tank Madrid”. The seat will be installed at Puerta del Sol, the most important square in the heart of Madrid. We expect this international competition to stimulate new ideas that will be developed in the medium term, as we did in 2011 with the competition held to celebrate Escofet’s 125th anniversary.