"Concrete Twist," designed by Architecture department head and Stuckeman Chair of Integrative Design, Mehrdad Hadighi, was selected by domus online as one of their top ten architectural stories of 2012. Completed in 2008 by Hadighi, founder/principal of Studio for Architecture, and Tsz Yan Ng, the building houses all of the functions of the Layfaette 148 clothing-label company and is organized around the flow of production. It is located in Shantou, China.
By building upon local traditions of concrete construction, the architects created an elegantly-wrapped building that does more than simply make a fashionable reference. Although architects have been drawing analogies between architecture and clothing for centuries, at Lafayette 148, the analogy is reversed. In an unusual but wonderful twist, the building's façade has informed the branding of a recent clothing line for the company.
Each façade fin was produced on site and with local labor. Holes are punched out of the concrete fins. The architects explain “that the holes themselves are a representation in Braille of the company's name.” Although this might be a rather oblique reading, the holes in the fins perform in a number of fascinating ways. The holes lighten the twisted fins to be more easily hung. During the construction process, chain pulleys looped through the holes and allowed for the fins to be picked up, transported and finally set in place. The holes also provide for a play of shadow on the interior surfaces. Contrary to the unfortunately all too typical scenario that finds large western companies exploiting the inexpensive, and often unethical, labor practices in China, at Lafayette 148 the architects are dependent upon, but also develop the local tradition. The product is not, however, exported for profit but rather stays on site. In fact, this mode of fabrication could only occur in a situation such as the one in Shantou.
Throughout the building the architects deftly carved into the block to allow light to penetrate into the core and even provide exterior spaces that one is able to occupy. These spaces also help to mitigate the use of artificial cooling by drawing hot air from the building. Post-tensioned beams span the entire width of the floors, thus removing any need for interior columns. The result is a truly free plan that accommodates the wide variety of programmatic needs as well as offering bright and open workspaces.
Composed of a series of free flowing concrete fins, the façade flirts with the viewer offering a peek here and there. At night it becomes even more revealing.