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This article was originally published in ELLE Magazine on 14th August, 2017

 

It’s the most prevalent man-made material in the world. There’s so much of it to go round that each person on this planet could own three tons. By all accounts, that’s a lot of concrete. Yet, if you think about it, we rarely think about concrete at all. It’s existed in its modern form for only two brief centuries.

Yet the cement-and sand-based substance has seeped unstoppably to all four corners of the world, and it’s done this in such an unassuming manner that it seems like it’s always been here, that it isn’t a relatively new kid on the block. In those 200 years, it’s become a silent – barely noticeable – and ubiquitous observer of our lives. It’s just ‘there’, a bit like the air, or the sky. But is it really as invisible as all that?

In 200 years, it’s become a silent – barely noticeable – and ubiquitous observer of our lives

Let’s be flat-out honest here. There’s a side to concrete that has always been repellent, right? It’s often seen as the poor, basic, unloved sibling of other substances. Little wonder that whenever concrete is mentioned or referred to, the first associative thought that crystallises in many a mind is a faceless urban landscape, deprived of – and, in turn, depriving others of – the greenery of nature. Who is the worst (but by no means the only) culprit? Enter the commie block.

Boston    |     photo by Gunnar KlackDruskininkai    |     photo by Nicloas Gospierre

 

This is a real shame because, as with most things, there’s two sides to every coin. The other side is the side that made it?

 

The most widely-used man-made medium: it’s a remarkably good building material. It props up the foundations and holds rigid the lanky sides of ridiculously tall buildings and cheap housing blocks for millions of people. But enough about how much concrete there is.

 

This is a real shame because, as with most things, there’s two sides to every coin?

 

The other side is the side that made it the most widely-used man-made medium: it’s a remarkably good building material? It props up the foundations and holds rigid the lanky sides of ridiculously tall buildings and cheap housing blocks for millions of people. But enough about how much concrete there is. Because if you really think about it, buildings of wood, stone, brick, steel, and glass abound too, right? But enough about how much concrete there is.

 

 

Owen Hatherley

Landscapes of Communism

​​A History Through Buildings

 

 If modernism spikes your interest even in the slightest, then you’ve probably already come across Owen Hatherley. This is a fantastic book that takes you on a journey of learning about the history of twentieth-century communist Europe through its buildings. It’s basically Owen’s travel journal of his trips to ex-communist countries. Insightful, honest and beautifully written.

Building democracy

 

 

  1. Concrete and Culture

    If modernism spikes your interest even in the slightest, then you’ve probably already come across Owen Hatherley. This is a fantastic book that takes you on a journey of learning about the history of twentieth-century communist Europe through its buildings. It’s basically Owen’s travel journal of his trips to ex-communist countries. Insightful, honest and beautifully written.

  2. Toward a Concrete Utopia

    A fantastic book that accompanied MoMA’s exhibition on architecture in Yugoslavia. If you’d like to get your hands on a very comprehensive intro into the topic, this book is packed with intelligently written and insightful information by the very expert on the topic, Vladimir Kulić, plus numerous essays by other authors. Beautiful architecture imagery by Valentin Jeck comes as a bonus!
Boston    |     photo by Gunnar KlackDruskininkai    |     photo by Nicloas Gospierre

 

Let’s be flat-out honest here. There’s a side to concrete that has always been repellent, right? It’s often seen as the poor, basic, unloved sibling of other substances. Little wonder that whenever concrete is mentioned or referred to, the first associative thought that crystallises in many a mind is a faceless urban landscape, deprived of – and, in turn, depriving others of – the greenery of nature. Who is the worst (but by no means the only) culprit? Enter the commie block.