Buildings around the world showcase the customs, styles, and techniques of societies – past and present – that created them. Dwellings had been historically created with material in the region and in the styles that best adapt to their environments. In today’s world, we can order material from China, use a Danish shipping company, and a Hispanic owned logistics company to transport whatever we need from the comfort of our own home. This interconnected world has made it very easy for architects and construction firms around the planet to gravitate towards the most affordable solutions while still being adaptable to their environments. And there’s a very clear winner: Concrete.
From sidewalks to skyscrapers, concrete is one of the most common building materials responsible for shaping much of the current architectural landscape due to its durability, affordability and limitless uses. Concrete, a malleable material, is a gray paste that can be poured into a mold so that, when hardened, it retains a certain shape. It’s initial plasticity and stony condition once set, has been able to construct structures faster and cheaper than any other time in history.
And technology today allows us to prepare variations of concrete by adding other substances such as additives, fibers, and dyes. Simply put – structures made with concrete have more endurance, strength, and versatility to meet the construction needs of mankind.
So why is concrete such a popular choice? Well here’s a few quick reasons:
Workable: In a fresh state, it can easily be molded to fit the needs of whatever the contractor desires.
Resistant: In hardened state, it is resistant to the elements- rain, snow, dirt, weight, etc. Durable: Long lasting and safe. Only freeze thaw damage and large impact causes throughout years of neglect causes concrete structures to lose their power.
Economic: Do not confuse with cheap, but of all other building material it is the best bang for your buck
Architecture has progressed rapidly in the last 500 years. And with it have come great advancements in how we use concrete. Take for example a historical structure such as the Chandigarh Assembly Palace in India. Designed by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier the Chandigarh Assembly Palaces is a paradigmatic work of modern architecture of the mid-twentieth century. The use of concrete allows a formal and structural deployment that produces a unique plastic and a diverse spatiality. Or the unique Igualada Cemetery of the Catalan by Enric Miralles known for how it questions the very fabrics of what we believe a cemetery should be.
Of course, it is not only used for historical structures and skyscrapers but also houses, schools, sidewalks, industrial structures, and more. Concrete uses can range from providing the foundation to the construction of facades and finishes. It can be epoxied to display a beautiful garage floor or create a decorative and water resistant school hallway. The technical possibilities concrete offers are endless.
Concrete – and its diverse expressions and applications – shape much of the current architectural landscape. They appear in the most common buildings, but also in the most unique, those in which their presence, raw and exposed, qualifies the human space.
Who knew that what seemed like a boring, and drab material, is actually the very foundation of modern society!