An installation created by acclaimed US-based architecture firm Matter Design is described by themselves as "a condensed concrete spa"! Dubbed the Microtherme, the installation consists of a wooden box with sculptured interior walls fabricated from smooth, almost satin-like concrete. These inner walls heat up and cool down, creating a myriad of contradictory sensations for the user. This structure was first created as part of a curated exhibition staged in 2014 called “Bigger Than a Breadbox, Smaller Than a Building”, which showcased 10 installations, each created by a design firm based in the Boston area.
The Microtherme appears to be a new take on a traditional sauna. The Matter Design studio produced the interior of the structure by using a machined mould made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. The mould was then coated in a water-based surfacing compound and cast with glass-fibre-reinforced concrete.
The external structure consists of a birch plywood box measuring 2.1 metres by 2.4 metres by 2.1 metres in dimension. There is a single hole on one side of the box and another two holes on the bottom that are a bit larger and just about big enough for a human to gain entrance.
Once inside, the user is immersed in a seemingly soft and delicate world made entirely of concrete. Copper tubes were placed within the walls to enable hot and cool water to circulate through the structure, giving it the ability to change temperature rapidly causing an interesting and contrasting experience for the user nestled inside.
Matter Design’s Microtherme is a thought-provoking and sensorial piece. It is typical of some of the exploratory work that this interdisciplinary design practice has undertaken – such as their experimental project entitled Buoy Stone, which uses glass fibre-reinforced concrete and water. Matter Design was founded in 2008 by Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee. For more information, check them out here.