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Message From the Director: ‘Top 10’ Tilt-Up Projects

In this day and age everyone wants to know where they stand. Who is the best – not just now, but of all-time. After watching 8,000 hours of Olympics coverage (and that’s just prime time regular network coverage) and their discussion regarding the best Olympic athlete of all-time, I thought it would be a good idea to establish a list of the Top 10 Tilt-Up buildings of all-time.

We have a Tilt-Up Top 10 list that includes everything from Largest Panel to Smallest Curved Panel used as a Spandrel in a two-story multi-use office/ distribution building (just kidding on the last one) but we don’t have a list for the Top 10 Tilt-Up Buildings.

I realize, of course, that I am opening up the proverbial “can-of-worms” or “Pandora’s Box”, but then that is the very reason I’m doing it. I’m certain that an architect’s Top 10 will be different from a contractor’s or engineer’s Top 10, and every architect in particular will have a different Top 10. I’m not certain how this list will ultimately be determined, but I thought I would get a head start. I have the unique advantage of being able to view, or at least be aware, of buildings being constructed around the world – at least the ones that have been brought to TCA’s attention. Perhaps we will have a few more “uncovered” as this coverage unfolds.

Since this article is supposed to cover only 500 words or so, and I’ve used over half in the introduction, I had better get started. The buildings listed are not in any particular order, they are simply buildings that broke new ground, stretched the envelope, established new benchmarks, or in some other way, caught my attention.

Zion Lutheran Church – Zion, Illinois. This building is reaching back, back to the time when Tilt-Up was in its infancy. Tilt-Up isn’t even constructed today the way this building was completed but in many ways we are still striving to replicate the level of detail and intricacy that is displayed in this structure. This structure also is a testament to the durability of Tilt-Up as it is nearly 100 years old and is still performing. The building is the best example (and one of the few remaining) of the early tilt-table method of construction. The detail was imparted by embedding elements into the wet concrete panels, which were cast face-up.

West Springs Church – Ballwin, Missouri. This structure, another church or religious building, is one which, when you study it, says Tilt-Up. It is a structure that celebrates (to use a word often overused by architects) the fact that it is Tilt-Up. Some of the forms and shapes, while possible with other methods of construction, simply could not have been done economically with any building system other than Tilt-Up. The statement culminates in the “void” cross, formed by two panels at right angles. Instead of building a concrete cross, the architect designed two panels where the cross was formed by a void, which makes the cross dynamic as clouds move behind it throughout the day.

Sibaya Casino – Durban, South Africa. Wow is the only word you can use to describe this structure. Or to use one of our past president’s words, “what were they thinking”. If my story is correct, this project was Tilt-Up because no sane contractor would touch it, at least not with standard construction methods. This project incorporates curved panels – in multiple directions, voids, depth, size, height, variable thickness, vertical legs – am I forgetting anything – oh yes, and each of the seven modules surrounding the core structure is a different design. And that’s just the beginning. The contractor for this project will be one of our presenters at this year’s convention appropriately titled, “Rising to the Challenge.”

Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church – Ocala, Florida. Yes, another church. Why so many great Tilt-Up churches? Think of value, longevity, aesthetics, low-maintenance – pretty much all things you look for in a building, any building, and you eventually end up with Tilt-Up. My reason for putting this structure on my Top 10 is rooted in my love of Gothic Cathedrals. I’ve visited as many of the world’s Gothic Cathedrals as my budget will allow and continue to be in awe of what 13th and 14th century builders accomplished. Why don’t we do it today – primarily cost. The Severn Rivers Church comes as close to replicating the immense sense of verticality typical of a Gothic Cathedral as you can come with modern-day construction and it could not have been accomplished (unless you had an unlimited budget) with anything but Tilt-Up Construction.

Central Davis Jr. High Gymnasium, Layton Utah. This is perhaps the simplest of the buildings in my top 10 list but, like most of the others, it is a structure that when viewed closely, could only have been accomplished with Tilt-Up. I’m speaking primarily of the interlocking panels where basketballs are expressed in façade of the gymnasium. This technique could only be accomplished with Tilt-Up construction. The size of the panels, coupled with the perfect match on the joints – perfected using a common curved from – simply says Tilt-Up. This project is also typical of many other school and civic projects in the area utilizing color from the native rock in the area and a light sandblasted finish as the external finish on the panels.

I’m only half way through my list, which currently includes about 30 projects, and I’m out of space. The rest of my own Top 10 list will be unveiled at the TCA Fall Convention in Phoenix. Gather your thoughts on your own Top 10 and let us know why you think they deserve recognition. We haven’t decided how to arrive at this list yet but it will mostly likely involve a compilation of everyone’s favorites, voting, and wine bribes.


Ed Sauter, Executive Director

TCA Board of Directors


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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.