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Concrete and Culture
Within little over a century, concrete has become the most widespread construction material, found in almost all parts of the world. Annual production of concrete is now second only to that of water. This study investigates the historical implications, for construction, for culture and for the environment, of this very rapid introduction of a wholly new medium into everyday life. Hitherto, almost all research into concrete has concentrated upon its technical aspects, or been concerned with the take-up of new techniques and processes. Some work has been done on the way individual architects and engineers interpreted the new medium, but very little attention has been given to the reception of concrete outside architecture and engineering circles. The project aims to redress this, and makes it clear that the use of concrete is not limited to architects and engineers, but includes politicians, artists, writers, photographers and film-makers, whose various interpretations have been no less significant than those of the form-giving professions. The approach taken in the present study is that concrete is not only a substance, but also a process, requiring the combination of natural resources, human labour and human ingenuity. Variations in the manner of the combination of these elements gives rise to a different material occurring in different times and places: contrary to what is sometimes alleged, concrete is not the same everywhere. Similarly, whether for reasons of cultural tradition or political ideology, concrete is not perceived identically everywhere. The study aims to draw out these differences, and to consider their implications for geographical identities. This is a worldwide study of concrete as a global medium. A book, 'Concrete and Culture' is due for publication in early 2012. I have published a number of essays and articles on the research, and given many talks in a variety of fora.
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