Concrete Can Be Beautiful



That is an odd title coming from this TreeHugger, who prefers "Sustainable Cement is Like Vegetarian Meatballs" Nonetheless when a building is made from such a long-lasting material the best thing to do is to maintain it well and use it for a long time. Concrete structures take a lot of energy to build, a lot to knock down, and the recycling value is negligible. So reuse it.

Stephen Bayley writes about Robin Hood Gardens and the nature of concrete, "the fashionable hate material of today." He notes that Alison and Peter Smithson's project was not a smashing success:"Alas, their architectural reach exceeded the grasp of the builders and Robin Hood Gardens suffered from the start with a singular lack of commodity and firmness. Worse, the unintelligent housing policies of Tower Hamlets populated Robin Hood Gardens with the tenants least likely to be able to make sensible use of the accommodation."


He derides the Culture Minister's suggestion that it simply be documented and demolished.

"Mrs Hodge's advisers say it is too costly to refurbish (at £70,000 per unit this is obviously nonsense). The minister herself declares that historical purposes may be served by a detailed digital record of the building, an argument which could, I think, with equal force be applied to Uppark, Windsor Castle or Stonehenge."

He concludes:

"Margaret Hodge's remarks about concrete are ignorant prejudice. Concrete is a fine material, but needs maintenance and care as much as marble and oak need maintenance and care....Robin Hood Gardens is a test for lots of things: a test for taste, for intellect and vision. And a test for the government's ability to seize an interesting opportunity which could act as a model for benign redevelopment in every city in Britain." ::Guardian See also ::Adaptive Reuse

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