Walls & Wall Coverings

May 2011
May 2011

A range of new material options, from concrete to luminous wood veneer.

By Rita Catinella Orrell

Six years ago, when Carpinteria, California–based Forms+Surfaces wanted to develop products in ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC), it ran into a problem — research on commercial applications of the material was not available outside of university settings. Rather than throw out the concept, the company chose to develop its own UHPC specifically for commercial architectural, landscape, and urban applications — and TAKTL was born.

Photo © Gregory Benson (KI)
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“The closest commercially available material to TAKTL in the architectural products we’re making would be GFRC [glass fiber reinforced concrete], but the base concrete in GFRC is not UHPC,” says Jason Flannery, TAKTL’s head of design. “TAKTL outperforms GFRC in compressive, tensile, and flexural strength and, unlike GFRC, TAKTL can be cast in virtually any shape, texture, or pattern.” These improvements, along with the capability to custom-color the material, have transformed UHPC from a technical construction material into a group of multidimensional interior and exterior wall elements and panels, as well as urban furnishings such as benches, receptacles, and planters.

Although it is a new design material, it should feel familiar, says Flannery. “TAKTL is for the most part made up of similar components to conventional concrete; this was an essential part of its development,” he says. “The magic, if you will, is in the precisely controlled relationship between these components.” For proprietary reasons, the company will not disclose the complete list of ingredients, but it may utilize glass fibers or mesh, polyvinyl acetate, or steel fibers, depending on the project’s needs.

Beyond its design potential, the most innovative thing about TAKTL is its approach to manufacturing — if the project is big enough, they will come to you. “We have made a substantial investment to develop a manufacturing process that is modular and mobile,” says Flannery. “For large-scale projects more than 500 miles from Pittsburgh, we could set up a manufacturing facility near the project — anywhere in the world — and source all of the material and much of the labor locally.” This process virtually eliminates shipping costs, lowers the carbon footprint, and contributes to the local economy. “We are not aware of any other companies making building products for large-scale architectural projects operating in this way,” he adds.

The company anticipates installations to begin in fall 2011, with more unexpected product types, including louvers and canopies, coming soon. “The profile thickness depends entirely on the project, the size of the panel or piece, and the structural requirements of the particular situations,” says Flannery. TAKTL, Pittsburgh. circle 200

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