Infoscience

Thesis

Brevets de la maison en béton, 1892-1923: visions d'une construction monolithique, d'Edison à Le Corbusier

Looking back at the history of concrete houses around 1900, we can discover how reinforced concrete, initially tied to construction systems of renowned inventors (and other less known), is gradually becoming autonomous and a material on its own, highlighted for its aesthetics and malleability. Also, studying the different experiments by businesses, designers, developers, engineers or architects and linked to the interpretation of the structure, yields novel ideas. The research process focuses on construction technic in North America, Western Europe as well as Australia. It is shown that the first applications of reinforced concrete, at the domestic scale (excluding the raft foundation), apply to fire-resistant lightweight floors and walls. It appears that the problem of fireproof structures remains one of the primary concerns of inventors and manufacturers during this timeframe while other constraints such as earthquakes, post-war reconstruction or portable houses for settlements will follow. In the United Kingdom, the first patents relating cements were filed by the end of the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, those were followed by a proliferation of patents, spreading across many countries, involving multiple building materials such as plastics, conglomerates and, finally, reinforced concrete. Usually these patents solely focus on techniques and processes for the material development. However, around 1900, substantial changes in their content occur: the arrival of construction systems arising from abundant empirical research, material science experiments, development of calculation methods and, above all, technical solutions. Whether innovative or utopian, those solutions will help shape and define a new concrete construction theory, unveiling new fields of applications. Based on such inventions, the domestic industry, as opposed to large-scale industrial projects becomes a place for experimentations and small-scale prototyping. These projects experimented with usually individual, non-industrial dwellings built according to a ¿system¿. The period of interest, from 1892 to 1923, sees the use of concrete spreading throughout domestic architecture and is defined by two revolutionary systems. The first one is the fireproof floors of François Hennebique, followed by the weaving metal reinforcements in the Textile-Block of Frank Lloyd Wright. The research examines a series of inventions relating to different housing construction elements, from framing systems to prefabricated blocks to the single casting monolith house of Thomas Alva Edison and the standardization utopia of Le Corbusier for creating maisons en séries.

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