Concrete is today’s most popular building material. In fact, it’s consumed in greater quantities than any substance on earth, second only to water. But it’s easy to abuse. Consult anyone’s list of the world’s ugliest buildings, and you’re bound to find more than few concrete monstrosities.
In Material Strategies (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), a new book about creative applications of basic construction materials, author Blaine Brownell highlights five wildly innovative concrete structures. Each reveals how a material best known as the pet of sadistic Brutalists can be used in uncommon (and non-sadistic) ways.
There’s Zaha Hadid’s Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion in Spain, a span made from 29,000 concrete panels, and ECDM Architects’s RATP center in France, a bus station covered in embossed concrete that looks like perforated metal. There’s Bachman & Bachmann Architects’s Cella Septichora Visitor Center in Hungary, which has a translucent concrete wall that plays dazzling light tricks. In each case, fresh technological developments let the architects experiment with the material in a manner that would’ve seemed unimaginable to the concrete dogmatists of yore. Read more in our slideshow.
Buy Material Strategies for $18 on Amazon here.