January 26, 2006 Thanks to a lot of unimaginative work over the last half century, concrete has a bad name, yet at the same time, some of the world’s most beautiful and innovative works of contemporary architecture derive their character from the material. Interestingly, though concrete might seem a low tech material, it is evolving. We’ve recently written about bendable concrete and now there’s Light Transmitting Concrete (known as LiTraCon), which is created by mixing concrete and glass fibres optical strands to create a solid yet translucent block suitable for floors, pavements and load-bearing walls. The inventor of LiTraCon, Hungarian architect Aron Losonczi, gave a public lecture at the United States National Building Museum earlier this week to present his revolutionary product that brings translucence to a traditionally opaque material. The lecture complements a current exhibition at the Museum entitled Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete, which features a five-foot tall LiTraCon wall.
Losonczi’s company, LiTraCon Bt was formed in 2004, just three years after he graduated from Budapest's Technical University was listed the same year by Time magazine as one of the most amazing inventions of the year. Losonczi developed and completed the initial prototype of LiTraCon as a post-graduate fellow in Stockholm Royal University School of Architecture.
LiTraCon is manufactured in blocks of varying sizes with thousands of parallel optic fibres embedded in the block, giving it a “grain” and two feature surfaces. As fibre optics do not suffer from any loss of light, the blocks transmit light very effectively even when several metres thick.
Losonczi used the opportunity of the lecture to respond to a recent article in the New York Times which suggested that the concrete would be very expensive because of its optic fibre content. Losonczi said that although LiTraCon was a premium product, it was not prohibitively expensive, particularly considering its extraordinary properties, citing some of the remarkable projects that have already employed the translucent blocks.
He also foreshadowed a further reduction in cost when international licensing deals eventuate and large scale production is implemented.