Sueños con Fiber/Timber, Earth/Concrete

Grupo Mota-Engil and MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism Installation

Dreams of Concrete

Dreams of Concrete explores the future of affordable housing in Mexico by minimizing the material impact of existing construction methods. The horizontal roof structure takes the existing vigueta y bovedilla system as a starting point, optimizing the shape of the precast reinforced concrete beams to minimize the use of material and its associated environmental impact by 50% compared to conventional systems. This elegant geometry, sculpted by varying width and depth along the beam’s span, is enabled by recent computational design methods developed in MIT research. The fabrication is achieved through fiberglass molds that allow for multiple casting cycles. Sueños con Concrete lies at the intersection of local construction techniques and new digital fabrication technologies, resulting in a collaboration between industry, social enterprise, and academia as a model toward a more sustainable built environment.


1. Ismail, M. and Mueller, C. “Minimizing embodied energy of reinforced concrete floor systems in developing countries through shape optimization,” Engineering Structures, 246, 112955, 2021.

2. Gascón Alvarez, E., Stamler, N., Mueller, C., and Norford, L. “Shape optimization of chilled concrete ceilings – Reduced embodied carbon and enhanced operational performance,” Building and Environment, vol. 221, p. 109330, Jun. 2022.

3. Broyles, J., Hartwell, A., Gascón Alvarez, E., Ismail, M., Norford, L., Mueller, C. Brown, N. “Shape optimization of a concrete floor system for sustainability, acoustical, and thermal objectives.” Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Structures and Architecture, Portugal, 2022.

4. Ismail, M., Mayencourt, P. and Mueller, C. “Shaped beams: Unlocking new geometry for efficient structures,” Architecture, Structures, Construction, 2021.

5. Ismail, M. and Mueller, C. “A platform of design strategies for the optimization of concrete floor systems in India,” Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Structures and Architecture, Portugal, 2019.

6. Gascón Alvarez, E., Mueller, C. and Norford, L. “Dynamic thermal performance of structurally optimized concrete floor slabs,” Proceedings of Building Simulation 2021 Conference, Bruges, Belgium, 2021.

7. Feickert, K. and Mueller, C. “Thin shell foundations: Historical review and future opportunities,” Proceedings of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium 2020/2021, Surrey, UK 2021.



Exploded axonometric of Sueños con Earth/Concrete structural components. Future work could include more efficient shell foundations.Image by Kiley Feickert, 2022

Mock-up of shape-optimized precast concrete beam (vigueta).Photo by Dinorah Martínez Schulte, 2022

3D printed clay bovedillas span between the shape-optimized viguetas.Photo by Dinorah Martínez Schulte, 2022

The sculpted viguetas decrease in depth and increase in width where they bear on the Ecoblock wall. Photo by Dinorah Martínez Schulte, 2022

Axonometric of Sueños con Earth/Concrete pavilion.Drawing by Edu Gascón, 2022