"Fifty-pound flour sacks emptied by the local baker were re-purposed as the formwork for nearly 1,000 gently swollen concrete building units. Each ""belly block"" is uniquely shaped, forming billowing walls of concrete that thread through a bakery-bar-restaurant, up the stairwell and into the living rooms and bathrooms of residences above. The apparent softness of these voluptuous concrete blocks entices one to caress, but once cured, their firmness is unyielding.
After iterative prototyping trials and refinements, two reusable formworks were built to allow the belly blocks to be pre-fabricated on site in double batches of twenty. The content of each 'King Arthur' flour bag is transformed into 96 baguettes, or 125 boules of brioche. Once emptied, the sack takes on a new life, defining the limits of a discrete 7' high x 15' long x 5-7' wide concrete block. The extent of bulge under the fluid material weight is regulated by a series of dowels that limit the volume's expansion and prevent the pliant formwork from tearing. Voids in each masonry unit reduce weight and facilitate traditional vertical reinforcing as the running courses are laid. Re-casting the typical CMU, these elegantly bloated blocks provide both enclosure and necessary fire separation between commercial, common, and residential territories.
Belly blocks celebrate the viscous materiality of concrete in a nearly zero-waste process, yielding beautiful exposed concrete structure with captivatingly sensual aggregate surfaces."