Tim Brown Architecture

footings

Added on by Timothy Brown.

I'm as impressed as most any architect by the fairface finish concrete Ando and other folks can sometimes pull off. That feat speaks of planning, good specs, good mixes, and proper placement. An ultimate test for control freaks since the task is, in essence, to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. But that's about surface and touch and cosmetics and silk purses have only limited appeal for me. The notion that architectural concrete's real character is expressed in the close control of surface finish elides the real power of this material.

So it has always seemed very odd to me that the part of the structure that connects  to the ground, the building element that conveys all the above-grade structural gymnastics to the earth itself - the footing - is utterly ignored materially and conceptually. Architects typically don't even bother with drawing foundations, leaving that work to the engineers' standard details. Foundations, and particularly footings, disappear from sight so how they're made, their form and their finish, is irrelevant. The only important material qualities involve placement, cost, ultimate strength, and permeability. In NC we seldom even bother with formwork for footings; trench and pour.

Yesterday the concrete crew poured concrete footings atop this extraordinarily white prehistoric Lake Michigan sand at this small project in Lakeview. And I wondered what it would mean to exercise the care usually reserved for making concrete walls look a certain way to making the bottom face of the footing - the place where all we do above travels downward in a kind of exquisite chthonic embrace. Our best face towards Terra.

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