Why Do We Love To Hate Concrete?
June 5, 2020 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Huh. I like concrete.
posted by potrzebie at 9:07 PM on June 5 [23 favorites]

Brutalism has its charms...
posted by Windopaene at 9:10 PM on June 5 [5 favorites]

I mostly hate concrete because it's such a giant generator of greenhouse gasses.

I do love it for what it's accomplished for civilization starting millennia ago.
posted by hippybear at 9:15 PM on June 5 [8 favorites]

I hate it because I think it's ugly.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:40 PM on June 5

Welcome back!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:30 PM on June 5

It's an amazing material - in the right minds/hands. Jarring repeating grids, hard to clean surfaces and lack of fenestration are not obligatory with concrete, just easier.

I don't see any signs we are becoming less totalitarian as society shifts to new materials / thinking.

from the article: "Trump expressed a desire to establish a federal architectural style rooted in the classical tradition" so who will his Speer be? One of this lot maybe
"an unhinged ... conservative think tank".
posted by unearthed at 12:13 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]

I've always loved concrete buildings. I find their solidity comforting.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:16 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]

There are some brilliant brutalist buildings around. There's also some terrible concrete clad messes. I think the biggest problem with concrete buildings (in the UK at least) is that they were often put up in an era of high volume low cost housing at a time when the material wasn't fully understood and insulation wasn't a thing.

The result was a lot of buildings which were cheaply built with techniques that didn't stand the test of time, housing people without the wealth or connections to advocate for maintenance. Condemning these buildings almost became inevitable.

The Barbican in London is a brutalist complex which was built from the outset to be for the wealthy, with quality and maintenance budgets to match. It's thriving today.
posted by leo_r at 1:57 AM on June 6 [11 favorites]

My hometown has some pretty rad concrete architecture.
posted by saladin at 4:24 AM on June 6

I recently came across Concrete Cat, who make functional art objects out of variegated color concrete. I just love the look of this stuff, and I think it would be amazing to see this kind of material treatment scaled up to building size.
posted by D.Billy at 6:23 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]

Upkeep may be harder long term, LOS MANANTIALES RESTAURANT, MEXICO CITY still seems pretty cool but, weathered.

(now to a small derail, what are those things in the back? ... gondolas! Totally have a destination if I ever wrangle a trip to Mexico City. )
posted by sammyo at 7:38 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]

What's the concrete I see most frequently? Sidewalks, with cracks; streets with cracks and stripes of tar; parking lot barriers, often broken with rebar sticking out; storm sewers with trash and graffiti. Overpasses darkened with exhaust grime, with broken glass around that never seems to get cleaned. There is great architecture, sure, but that's not what I associate concrete with.
posted by emjaybee at 8:31 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]

I'm with emjaybee... in SE Michigan, we've got so many abandoned business lots that are nothing but cracked concrete (and a bit of asphalt) pads. Wondering what sort of business proposition could be made to bust them up and return them to dirt. Probably more a government proposition.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:44 AM on June 6

Ah, Brutalism. So ugly you can't even burn it down.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:30 AM on June 6 [6 favorites]

I adore concrete, adore glorious béton brut even more, and adore and revel in the delicious pain that it causes for people who think it is a personal affront to them (I'm not linking to that asshole, James Howard Kunstler, but his sputtering dyspeptic oldmantrums about "bad" architecture make me delirious with sneering).

It's all infinitely better than building everything out of bird-assassinating glass, or worse, out of fuel.
posted by sonascope at 1:12 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]

Do I need a reason other than personally finding it ugly? I like organic shapes, forms, and materials. To each their own.

Although I think it does tend to be hard to maintain and get crumbly.
posted by mkuhnell at 1:20 PM on June 6

I like organic forms, shapes, and materials, too, but I don't find that at odds with my love of concrete buildings.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:50 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]

Organic forms and shapes?

A poor workman blames his tools. A poor designer blames the materials.

One might think of raw cement as dehydrated stone.
posted by rudd135 at 4:06 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]

Of course a talented designer can make concrete beautiful. But keeping it beautiful is hard because it ages badly. Wood, bricks and stone seem to age better.
posted by emjaybee at 4:41 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]

I grew up in and mostly thankfully outside of Portsmouth UK, all I recall of Portsmouth is the Tricorn Centre, it was lazy design imposed on a bombed city. Memories of severe temperature changes from dark to light, wind vortices and downdrafts, and the threat imposed by blind corner and hidden spaces. Brutalist in form and brutal to experience.
posted by unearthed at 1:41 PM on June 7

No, people hate concrete because so many examples of it are ugly, because it ages badly, and because many public projects of a certain era built with it were half baked social experiments - not because they love neoliberalism.
posted by blue shadows at 6:05 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

It ages badly if it’s poorly maintained. Because it was widely used in public building projects, and many nations follow the United States’ example of disinvesting in public infrastructure over the years, most of the examples we see today are ones that have not been taken care of as they should have been. At the generously-endowed university where I worked, two of the buildings I worked in were great concrete hulks from the 1960s-70s, and they remain beautiful and functional to this day. The most expensive apartment building I’ve lived in was also a well-maintained concrete structure that is still aging very nicely. It was also cool in summer and warm in winter due to the massive thick walls.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:05 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

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