MEDUSA, Making Ways and Ways of Making

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: Fabrication and Material Technologies Lab;
Active Dates: 1 January 2012- 31 August 2012

Project Title: MEDUSA, Making Ways and Ways of Making

Project Team: Olivier Ottevaere (PI)


Medusa is a full scale built prototype for an umbrella structure, providing shade for public use.

Three interlocking concrete legs describe a central void and articulate a continuous transition from column to slab; an alteration of a mushroom column archetype.

The prototype reinterprets Felix Candela’s umbrella projects with radically different formwork methods, responses to material properties and construction procedures.

The fabrication of the project explores means of conceiving concrete formworks that are more responsive and adaptive to the casting process by exploiting the short lived gap between liquid to solid. In doing so, the formwork is constructed from a range of materials, hard and soft, all accomplices in interacting with gravity loads, pressure and water seeping.

On making ways: With a group of architecture students, we took residency in a large precast factory in the Pearl River Delta, a region of China often labeled the ‘the factory of the world’. There, for three weeks we lived and worked with factory workers, learnt from their various trades and fully experienced how such a plant, geared towards mass production of precast elements, operates professionally but also socially. By meeting half-way in the realization of the prototype, productive working relationships were forged between students and factory workers, at each stage of the process.

On ways of making: The temporary formwork was constructed upside down to make full use of gravity. After curing, the concrete prototype was flipped in its intended position. The main intention for the project was to influence the process of architectural design in reverse; that is by synthesizing an architectural proposal from the findings emerging out of a succession of built experiments. Throughout a trial and error process, geometry is employed as regulator of a short lived liquid mass in space and not as form making. During the casting process, geometry orchestrated the different interactive roles, given to each elements of the formwork, until a solid formation was finally reached.

Research output


2016: “Medusa, Making Ways and Ways of Making” (Peer-reviewed project), Ottevaere O., in  Material and Media Investigations Panel, “Shaping New Knowledges”,  Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Annual Meeting 2016, Seattle, Washington, USA (

2016: “Liquid State and Concrete Uncertainties” (Peer-reviewed paper) Ottevaere O., in Risk Panel, International Research Based Education 2016, in celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL) and in collaboration with the Association of Architectural Educators (AAE) and the Architectural Review (AR), London, England (


2016: “Concrete as Process”, Advanced Technology Lecture Series: Technology and Material, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Hong Kong Chapter.


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