Concrete has been the most widely used building material in the world since the Roman era. But it was not until the 19th century that the use of concrete in architecture became massive, being the favorite of the great masters of the modern movement.聽

Some of the characteristics that make concrete so appreciated by architects and builders are its versatility, its resistance, its ease of handling and its timeless aesthetics, which does not stand out in any setting.

In fact, from the Arches of the Colosseum in Rome to Frank Lloyd Wright’s first skyscraper, concrete architecture is present in every era and corner of the world. 

The earliest known use of concrete in architecture dates back to Syria and Jordan in 6000 BC. However, it became more evident in the rough forms of ancient Egyptian and Greek buildings.聽

The renaissance of concrete in the modern era

Although its use is ancient, the last few centuries have seen a very significant qualitative leap, with concrete surfaces, structures and constructions. That would have been impossible to think of before.聽

This is due to the development of new methods and products for the manipulation of concrete that have made it possible to generate more sophisticated constructions and forms in both objects and buildings, the curved line being one of the most aesthetically impressive. 

The artistic use of concrete in sculpture had been proliferating since much earlier. Despite of that, it was not until the 1930s when influential architects such as Le Corbusier broke the boundaries between architecture and sculpture by experimenting with concrete and taking the plastic capabilities of this material to the highest level.聽

As in the case of Chandigarh, the utopian city designed by Le Corbusier with Pierre Jeanneret in 1947, in post-independence India. In this image we see The Palais de l’Assembl茅e. Its swooping sculptural form at the entrance contrasts with the linear concrete columns throughout the building.

Le Corbusier’s Unit茅 d’Habitation in Marseille (France) is one of the most important Brutalist buildings in the world. He intended the tower to house displaced persons in World War II, and many still live here. 

Concrete today

Despite its many uses and capabilities, this liquid stone has been both admired and stigmatized over time due, firstly, to its coldness and moldable personality, which did not convince some architects and designers; and secondly, to the fact that its manufacture is one of the main pollutants in the atmosphere. 

In this regard, some contemporary architects have played with concrete, forms and sculpture to create spectacular buildings. 

Another example is the Jubilee Church, designed by architect Richard Meier at the request of Pope John Paul II in 1993. As we can see in the image, three concrete sails, inspired by the half-circle, rest on a square spine. 

French architect Christian de Portzamparc was commissioned to design Rio de Janeiro’s Cidade das Artes in 2013.  The curvilinear concrete walls, an homage to Brazilian modernist architecture of the mid-20th century, achieve a striking aesthetic. 

As for its polluting effect, it is related to the manufacture of cement, a material used in the creation of concrete and whose industry emits about 8% of all global carbon dioxide emissions. 

This fact has generated growing concern in the sector, which has focused on innovation and experimentation with the aim of reducing the environmental consequences of this industry.

In this sense, the basis of research revolves around reducing the use of cement in the concrete mix. Some of the solutions have been the integration of bio-based materials and elements, the use of fiberglass-reinforced concrete and the creation of bioreceptive concrete, which consists of a concrete covering where moss can grow, being able to absorb Co2 in large quantities. 

Likewise, concrete recycling is also one of the alternatives, since concrete waste can be used to manufacture structural parts that maintain good resistance to loads.

Thus, the sector once again demonstrates its intention to maintain concrete as a star material in construction, putting itself at the service of architecture both aesthetically and environmentally. 
If you still need more proof that concrete is here to stay, visit the instagram profile @_archidesignhome_ and discover works of modern architecture that surrender to this material.