In the photobooth with...

In­ter­view by Rob Wil­son

RW: Can you de­scri­be Bling­C­re­te and its pro­per­ties? What is it?

HK: It’s a new­ly de­ve­lo­ped ma­te­rial: a light-re­f­lec­ting con­c­re­te, com­bi­ning the hea­vy sur­face of con­c­re­te with light-re­f­lec­ting qua­li­ties – crea­ted by em­bed­ding litt­le sphe­res of glass in­to the con­c­re­te to about 50% depth. Doing this you im­me­dia­te­ly get a uni­que pris­matic ef­fect, with each sphe­re ac­ting as a re­tro-re­f­lec­tor – mea­ning light is re­f­lec­ted away from its sour­ce at an equal and op­po­si­te ang­le.

TK: So this gi­ves it a ve­ry spe­cial sur­face: if you view it from a spe­ci­fic po­int, you get this ve­ry in­ten­si­ve re­f­lec­ti­on from a light-sour­ce, which gi­ves the so­lid con­c­re­te a glis­te­ning im­ma­te­rial im­pres­si­on…

HK: That‘s ba­si­cal­ly the trick about Bling­C­re­te!

RW: Al­most li­ke a meta­mor­pho­sis…

TK: Yes – and so the ma­te­rial has a cer­tain con­tra­dicto­ry cha­rac­ter com­bi­ning two po­lar op­po­si­te ma­te­rials: glass and con­c­re­te in one com­po­si­te.

RW: What’s the back­ground to the de­ve­lop­ment of Bling­C­re­te?

TK: It ca­me out of a pro­ject Hei­ke did for a sub­way sta­ti­on in Düs­sel­dorf. The idea the­re was to use light-re­f­lec­ting ma­te­rial but it tur­ned out that eve­r­y­t­hing on the mar­ket didn’t com­p­ly with fi­re re­gu­la­ti­ons. The­re­fo­re so­me­t­hing new nee­ded to be de­ve­lo­ped: light-re­f­lec­ting but not harm­ful to peop­le in a fi­re. Hen­ce Bling­C­re­te’s com­bi­na­ti­on of con­c­re­te and glass – ma­te­rials al­rea­dy used th­roug­hout pu­b­lic space.

On the con­cep­tual si­de, our back­grounds are that Hei­ke’s an ar­tist, and she al­rea­dy used re­tro-re­f­lec­ti­ve ma­te­rials in her work. Whilst I’m an ar­chi­tect, mo­re on the tech­ni­cal and sci­en­ti­fic si­de, and ha­ve writ­ten a book on smart sur­faces. So we com­bi­ned our two spe­ci­fic ty­pes of know­led­ge and ex­pe­ri­en­ce in ma­king Bling­C­re­te.

HK: We es­tab­lis­hed a re­se­arch pro­ject, found an in­vest­ment part­ner, be­gan to sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly de­ve­lop the ma­te­rial and to set up the pro­duc­ti­on pro­ces­ses nee­ded in in­du­s­try - a real­ly long pro­cess. The­re’s a big dif­fe­ren­ce bet­we­en pro­du­cing a pro­to­ty­pe in a la­bo­rato­ry and thou­sands of squa­re me­t­res in a facto­ry!

RW: And the na­me: Bling­C­re­te?...

HK: …co­mes of cour­se from the hip-hop ‘bling’: shi­ny je­wel­ry etc.

RW: So how can Bling­C­re­te be used? What are its ap­p­li­ca­ti­ons?

HK: The­re are so ma­ny func­tio­nal ap­p­li­ca­ti­ons: for re­f­lec­ti­ve road mar­kings, in­du­s­trial ha­zard signs, plat­form ed­ges, tun­nels… And in ar­chi­tec­tu­re, it can be used on fa­ça­des, in in­te­rior de­sign, as a way-fin­ding sys­tem – or for small spe­cial si­tua­ti­ons whe­re a mes­sa­ge or gra­phic needs to be se­en but on­ly at a cer­tain the po­int whe­re the in­for­ma­ti­on is re­qui­red. It can al­so func­ti­on as a tac­ti­le sys­tem for blind peop­le.

TK: What’s nice for de­sig­ners is playing around with ideas of the vi­si­b­le and in­vi­si­b­le, and the ma­te­rial’s spe­cial qua­li­ty of chan­ging from being ac­ti­ve to pas­si­ve. It of­fers ve­ry in­te­res­ting pos­si­bi­li­ties to work with and in­te­g­ra­te in­to a de­sign.

RW: So a ba­lan­ce bet­we­en use and be­au­ty…

TK Yes and I think its ve­ry chal­len­ging and in­te­res­ting for de­sig­ners to play around with Bling­C­re­te’s an­ta­go­nistic cha­rac­te­ristics.

RW What about the la­test de­ve­lop­ments or pro­jects you’re in­vol­ved in?

HK: Well Bling­C­re­te is just now be­gin­ning to be used in so­me ve­ry in­te­res­ting pro­jects, which is real­ly ex­ci­ting: for fa­ça­des, si­g­na­ge sys­tems, in land­s­ca­pe ar­chi­tec­tu­re and pu­b­lic space.

TK: And we’re de­ve­lo­ping Bling­C­re­te using co­lou­red glass balls, and opaque ones too, whe­re the sur­face acts li­ke a mir­ror.

We’re al­so ex­p­lo­ring other ways of func­tio­na­li­zing con­c­re­te sur­faces. Right now we’re wor­king on a con­c­re­te sur­face to pro­du­ce en­er­gy using mag­netic for­ces, which is ve­ry pro­mi­sing.

HK. Apart from the de­ve­lop­ment and en­t­re­p­re­neu­rial si­de, as we’re from ar­chi­tec­tu­re and art back­grounds, what in­te­rests us are the con­cep­tual and aes­thetic qu­es­ti­ons. All our work to­ge­ther acts as a re­se­arch plat­form.

TK: The­re is a big dis­cus­si­on at the mo­ment about art and sci­en­ce. But our work on Bling­C­re­te and func­tio­na­li­zing con­c­re­te sur­faces are practi­cal pro­jects that com­bi­ne the­se two fields. What’s in­spi­ring is ha­ving the chan­ce to work with peop­le from all ty­pes of fields: sci­en­tists and ex­perts in ma­te­rial phy­sics, along­si­de ar­tists, ar­chi­tects and de­sig­ners.

Ba­si­cal­ly our work is on ma­te­rials but we are in­te­res­ted in the im­ma­te­rial! We al­ways on­ly use the ma­te­rial as a re­fe­ren­ce to things that are mo­re con­cep­tual: that’s what we do.

Über den Artikel

un­cu­be ma­ga­zi­ne 04
Rob Wilson