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The New Frontier in Cast Concrete Furniture Design

Crafted at a facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, MeldStone uses proprietary mixing, molding and setting techniques.

"Imagine being able to design and create things that have never been done before,” muses Landscape Forms Chief Creative Officer, Kirt Martin. “That’s what MeldStone™ gives us. Having the capability to achieve really thin cross-sections of cast concrete with a lot of structural stability raises the bar on what cast concrete site furniture can be. It’s a new frontier.”

MeldStone, Landscape Forms’ proprietary performance concrete optimized for outdoor spaces, has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities in the company’s design of site furnishings. The innovative material unlocks concrete’s potential to create large-scale organic forms, crisp-edged geometric pieces, thin-profile shapes, and seemingly weightless suspended architecture. This new generation of concrete furnishings seemingly defies old-school logic—a material that once needed to appear rigid and heavy can now seem soft and supple, graceful and malleable.

“When you think about it, cast concrete has played a central role throughout much of architectural history,” says Landscape Forms Director of Manufacturing, Adam Dintaman. “It was a defining element in everything from the construction of aqueducts in Ancient Rome to the minimalist, angular façades of post-war Brutalist architecture. So it’s not new. But with MeldStone, cast concrete becomes revolutionary -- the potential to create completely new forms explodes.”

The STRATA bench seat is thick at the center, progressively thinner as it expands toward the edges, and faceted where angles come together as shown in the bench mold.
MeldStone is an available surface option with the Morrison stool along with white polyurethane cushion, wood, and metal inserts.

MeldStone uses proprietary mixing, molding and setting techniques to begin this new chapter in the material's profound influence on the built environment. "The mixer we use to combine the concrete—a custom system that combines material dispensing, high-horsepower mixing and programmable computer functions into a single system—is the only one of its kind in North America,” describes Landscape Forms’ Product Engineering Manager, Natalie Biddle. “We pump the material into molds and vibrate them to ensure uniform consistency. When I describe the whole process to customers or peers in the industry, I always get responses like, ‘Wow, you guys really are doing things no one else does.’"

The result of MeldStone's unique composition and process enables Landscape Forms’ designers and engineers to approach the material with a greater degree of creative freedom than they would working with traditional cast concrete. The product’s mix design takes advantage of extremely small particle size—smaller than the width of a human hair—and high compressive strength to achieve remarkably thin profiles with high structural integrity. Combined with MeldStone’s smooth, stone-like polished finish, the material can convey feelings of elegance, lightness and refinement that were once thought to be antithetical to the medium.

Perhaps MeldStone’s unique potential is best expressed in Landscape Forms’ new Typology Collection, in which the material is the basis for the collection’s compelling forms, cohesive feel and adaptable construction. “The Typology Collection’s ribbon bench is a perfect showcase of MeldStone’s capabilities,” says Biddle. "Especially when you look at it from an end view, the profile and wall thicknesses are so different than anything else you see made from concrete.”

The Typology ribbon bench is the flowing centerpiece for its collection, with modular curved and straight segments enabling the bench to meander seamlessly throughout the landscape. On each of the segments, a thin layer of MeldStone drapes like a mantle over metal supports, expressing elegance, refinement and seemingly impossible lightness. Soft, rounded edges and a smooth, polished seating surface invite comfort and relaxation, while protrusions on the underside of the concrete profiles nestle seamlessly into a support structure, enabling the components to join without fasteners. Complementing the ribbon bench, the Typology Collection’s path light also utilizes a thin MeldStone mantle on the exterior to express elegance, with exceptional durability and strong continuity in design.

The Typology Collection’s ribbon bench is a perfect showcase of MeldStone’s capabilities.
A MeldStone mantel encases the stainless steel core of the Typology path light to provide a premium feel, exceptional durability and strong continuity in design.

“When we first began working on Typology with our collaborators at Designworks, a BMW Group company, we let the question of which materials to use remain open ended, but we all quickly came to the conclusion that MeldStone was the best solution for the project’s ambitious design goals,” says Landscape Forms Product Engineer, Jake Meyers. “It checked all the boxes—it’s able to achieve smooth bends and curves at a scale large enough for a full-sized seating system, it's able to arrive preformed for ease of installation, and it's able to provide exceptional strength and durability even with a very thin cross section. In the end, it performed better than any of us expected, giving us confidence to continue pushing the material in new directions.”

MeldStone’s ability to create forms that are simultaneously graceful and refined yet incredibly durable makes it an ideal candidate to sustainably bring more inspiring design to heavy-use public spaces like parks, college and corporate campuses and healthcare facilities. “In my opinion, one of MeldStone’s most compelling features is its reliability,” says Natalie Biddle. “Unlike traditional concrete with its larger aggregate, MeldStone is very resistant to weathering, abrasion and cracking, meaning a piece will essentially look the same as it did on day one decades later.”

The Typology ribbon bench is the flowing centerpiece for its collection, with modular curved and straight segments enabling the bench to meander seamlessly throughout the landscape.
Soft, rounded edges and a smooth, polished seating surface invite comfort and relaxation.

Also unlike traditional, cast-in-place concrete solutions, MeldStone utilizes less material, adopting thinner—or even hollow—profiles to achieve equivalent if not better performance, more refined aesthetics and more diverse design potential. And should a MeldStone piece need to be replaced, the lack of any rebar or wire mesh in the casting means it can be easily and efficiently transformed into recycled aggregate for future use.

“Cast concrete has had a profound impact on the evolution of architecture, but I think its effect on the trajectory of furniture design is really just beginning,” says Kirt Martin. “Many of the forms we’re creating with MeldStone today were thought to be impossible just ten years ago, and in recent work like the Typology Collection, the material even exceeded our current performance expectations. I believe this is a seminal moment in time for the design of more sophisticated and creative cast concrete furnishings, and we’re excited to continue pushing the limits with MeldStone.”


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Introducing the Air Collection: Escofet’s Iconic Forms Captured in a Whole New “Light”

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Powerful Perspectives: Cross-Industry Experts Discuss Design & Holistic Sustainability