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Message From the President: Tilt-Up Architecture With A Capital ‘A’

In 2005, the TCA published the first edition of “The Architecture of Tilt-Up”. The title was carefully selected from many possible choices such as “Architectural Design in Tilt-Up”, “Tilt-Up Design”, and other variations involving the words style, architectural, aesthetics, and design. I learned many years ago in school that architects often make a distinction between architecture with a lower case ‘a’,
and Architecture with a capital ‘A’. While all buildings should be well designed, the former refers to basic buildings, while the latter refers to projects that are special or noteworthy, with a lasting positive impact. We selected the title “The Architecture of Tilt-Up” to emphasize the TCA’s desire to support the creation of great buildings, ‘Architecture’, with Tilt-Up construction as the medium.

Architecture with a big “A”

What has happened to the Tilt-Up industry in the last decade has been remarkable. Sophisticated detailing, curved panels, shaped parapets, thin brick, new coatings, out-of-plane panels, extremely tall panels, and many other developments have all changed the industry forever. Nevertheless, the industry is still in its infancy, something we need to remember. We sometimes become enamored with all the technical capabilities or new applications that Tilt-Up has to offer. Yet I sometimes I hear it said “The project is good for a Tilt-Up building”. When appraising the quality of a project’s architectural design, one might ask; when does it become a great building, a piece of Architecture, beyond just a good application of Tilt-Up?

Last year, on their 150th anniversary, the American Institute of Architects published a list of the 150 top buildings in the United States. To my knowledge, none of the 150 are Tilt-Up. When buildings using the Tilt-Up method gain more recognition in arenas beyond TCA, Tilt-Up will truly have ‘arrived’ as a force in Architecture. How many buildings will be Tilt-Up on the AIA 300 list in 150 years?

What, then, makes a great piece of TILT-UP Architecture?

I’ve had the opportunity to speak at the TCA Convention about good design, which, for me, has been well-defined since ancient times by the architect Vitruvius, and follows three basic principals: firmness (well constructed), commodity (works for intended purpose), and delight (beauty/aesthetics). These principles apply to any building, even today, Tilt-Up buildings included.

Tilt-Up buildings generally fall into three categories in architectural terms: unadorned, or minimal in design, masking the Tilt-Up, or made to look like something else often with appliqué or referencing historical styles, and embracing Tilt- Up, buildings which look like Tilt-Up, yet with good aesthetics.

We are just beginning to see great Architecture in Tilt-Up, which I believe, will progressively be achieved by architects who embrace the uniqueness of Tilt-Up to exploit and express its advantages; examples such as the Roman’s use of the arch and the early twentieth century use of thin shell concrete structures come to mind.


The title of this year’s TCA Convention is clever in that it means something different to everyone. To the engineer, it may mean literally rising to great heights, and the structural requirements to make it possible. To the contractor, the title may mean stepping up to execute ever-more difficult construction demands. For me, as an architect, it means following the three principles of good architecture as defined by the architect Vitruvius and working toward producing Architecture with a capital ‘A’.

Our three-year-old publication “The Architecture of Tilt-Up” needs an update in the near future, to showcase projects which are progressively entering the realm of ‘Architecture’. I am constantly impressed with new standards of design excellence, and share our Executive Director’s interest in a top 10 list of Tilt-Up projects, with an ever-rising bar being set. I look forward to our October Convention in Phoenix, where we will perhaps see some of those top ten and projects that are rising to challenges on all fronts.


Alan Wilson, President

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.