Thursday, 12 February 2015

Concrete Design

Interesting to read that there is a project underway to archive all the tower blocks built from the 1940's on in the UK. Most of them were built to replace the devastating loss of housing after bombing, but also to create new homes for a growing population.

Many people might not have such great  memories of growing up in one of these high rise structures, the elevators were essential but high maintenance. The buildings swayed a bit in high winds, there always seemed to be some drippy wet patch running down the concrete. Your own experience of a high rise tower block might be watching a UK series on two brothers who lived in a high rise building in Peckham, London.

Many of these structures were made from concrete and this did form a particular landscape in old areas decimated by the bombing during the Second World War, as well as being a prominent feature in the design of New Towns. A lot of tall concrete structures still exist and are well used. However the evidence that many were being demolished was enough for the architectural historians at Edinburgh College of Art to begin. ( Interestingly, that is where I began studying Town Planning).

Design meets need of social built environment. Does it?

Charles Edouard Jeannert, also known as LeCorbusier, was an architect who believed in the versatility of concrete. It's a tough material. The aggregates have to be impervious, porosity in any form will hinder it worthless. Water is crucial, sufficient to allow the correct chemical reaction which allows it to set and harden is what makes this material viable. Yet it can be formed in so many ways.

Town planners probably saw concrete as an inexpensive material in which to build their landscapes of the future. Preformed concrete, concrete and instead of steel structure, more concrete.This should have made the advancement of good architecture, houses  people would dream to live in.

Sadly again town planners and builders didn't get it right.
It's a long study to consider social housing in all of this, but mostly this is what it was, council housing. They did their best, improving housing, providing extra housing. Kids running around streets now ran up and down stairs. When the tenements and streets  were demolished this was at the same time Green City was  being evolved.

Communities were expected to live on top of each other, no back doors or fences.
People need space in communities, fences of any time work.

Despite what planners and architects have done with a great and versatile material, I am here to praise it. Concrete is resilient, you will see a lot of it soon.

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