Janus is the Roman god of thresholds, simultaneously looking to the past and the future. Matter Design and CEMEX Global R&D have conjured this god of contradictions to help demonstrate the potentials of moving mass with joy. The ghost of Janus manifest as an animated double concrete sculpture on its original home and the current site of the American Academy in Rome—the Janiculum. Janus emerges from its own formwork and performs on stage in front of an audience of spectators. 

Working with composers Federico Gardella and Simone Conforti, this collaboration merges sonic and physical animation to produce a performance of living spectacle. In an hour-long performance, the audience is enveloped in a spatial chatter that transitions from the noise of the crowd itself to a spirit like whispering that draws the audience’s attention to an apparently gift-wrapped object on stage. Janus is designed through a series of monstrous contradictions. This graphic box references the Arch of Janus with a uniquely Roman color palette of pinks, oranges, and blues. The box slowly rolls onto its back, exposing it is merely the lightweight formwork of a massive object inside. From this rigid box, a vital concrete object springs to life on its own. Janus wobbles on stage, breathing life into a solid sphere and hollowed ring sculpture until the momentum slowly fades and the wrecking ball of an object appears to hover on a single point for the amusement of spectators. This spectacle of witnessing Janus’ rebirth projects a perception of life in this inorganic object, but Janus was not done. 

Janus re-manifest across the Atlantic on the campus of MIT, this time, dedicated to expressing a deeper understanding of the concrete form in relation to the human body through the act of play. Terez Lowry dances with Janus accompanied by the sounds of Gardella and Conforti’s composition, re-mastered for a 15-minute progressive presentation that demonstrates the apparently light but incredibly massive capabilities of what working with mass could look like today.


Brandon Clifford & Johanna Lobdell in collaboration with Davide Zampini—CEMEX Global R&D

year: 2018
location: Rome, Italy / Cambridge, MA
site: American Academy in Rome / MIT
size: 2.25m x 1.3m x 1.3m
mass: 2,000kg
material: Concrete
composition: Federico Gardella & Simone Conforti
formwork: Odico Formwork Robotics
dancer: Terez Lowry
research team: Daniel Marshall \ Mackenzie Muhonen
project leads: Alexandre Guerini \ Carlos Enrique Terrado \ Matthew John Meyers \ Tyler Swingle
project team: Alejandro Vilet Rodriguez \ Almaelisa Giovannucci \ Anthony Ponge \ Arturo Manuel Zalles Balanza \ Cyndy Arlenn Iniguez Sanchez \ Godwin Aghoro \ Helena Hujdur \ Jeremy Esser \ Jessica Chiaverini \ Loris Barth \ Markus Steiner \ Sebastiano Guerra \ Susana Alejandra Ordaz Villarreal \ Thomas Gerber \ Valentina Rizzo \ Yan Rausis  
acknowledgements: Funding provided by CEMEX Global R&D with support from The American Academy in Rome and formwork provided by Odico Formwork Robotics.