Weightless concrete is an oxymoron—and yet, a new project detailed at the 2019 TED Conference this week shows just how lightweight the material can feel with the some design ingenuity.
Design and research lab Matter Studio partnered with engineers at the construction company CEMEX to create Walking Assembly, a series of 13,000-pound concrete objects that can be moved by hand.
Inspired by the Moai statues on Easter Island, the researchers wanted to create large-scale stone objects that could be moved, assembled, and disassembled—without cranes, heavy equipment, or much effort from humans at all. The trick? It’s all about weight and balance.
The massive masonry units of Walking Assembly are made from variable density concrete, which helps the designers specifically calibrate the object’s center of mass. The stones’ wonky forms serve a purpose, too. Each is designed so a simple gesture can shift the center of mass and get the stone moving. A push might start a unit rocking on its curved bottom; a tug might help a stone shuffle into place.
All of the objects are designed to move more or less self-sufficiently, which is an incredible thing to watch given their size. The conclusion of the video demo above also suggests how these massive objects could be used to create inhabitable structures.