Concrete Ideas: Material to Shape a City

Pina Petricone’s first book, CONCRETE IDEAS: mate­r­i­al to shape a city pub­lished joint­ly by Oscar Riera Oje­da (Philadel­phia) and Thames and Hud­son (Lon­don, UK) in 2012 presents a body of mate­r­i­al research ini­ti­at­ed in Petricone’s Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to option stu­dio by the same name.

The book visu­al­ly ques­tions: “What would hap­pen if we exag­ger­at­ed some of the visu­al aspects of the seem­ing­ly banal con­crete details to ques­tion, chal­lenge, and inspire new poten­tials for this hum­ble mate­r­i­al?” Alessia Sop­pel­sa, Cana­di­an Archi­tect.

It looks to make claims about concrete’s inher­ent expres­sion and its inevitable shift in cul­tur­al sta­tus pro­voked by invis­i­ble but trans­form­ing cur­rent nano-tech­nolo­gies. This ques­tion was con­tem­plat­ed among oth­er mate­r­i­al spec­u­la­tions, which looked abroad to ulti­mate­ly test argu­ments with­in the con­crete-dense case of Toron­to. If we can say there exists still a gen­er­al per­cep­tion that con­crete looks best, from the out­side, in Mediter­ranean cli­mates, it is in con­trast then, that our minus 30°C to plus 30°C Toron­to, where sun angles can reach only 23 in win­ter, has an unpar­al­leled rich­ness of shin­ing moments in con­crete – ones which do not fit the decid­ed­ly beau­ti­ful sculp­tur­al and smooth molds of cel­e­brat­ed con­crete build­ings around the world. The ques­tion is, can we find virtue in unique qual­i­ties of (lack of ) smooth­ness, in grey­ness and in a sub­lime ugli­ness?

Con­crete Ideas pro­pos­es that a more self-con­scious tec­ton­ic inno­va­tion and expres­sion of the mate­r­i­al, as strate­gic inter­ven­tions of infra­struc­ture, build­ing and sur­face, can afford new pres­ence to exist­ing con­crete archi­tec­tures such as those often- dis­re­gard­ed bru­tal­ist exam­ples in our City; by pro­vid­ing the lens through which we per­ceive and expe­ri­ence them.

“It is what an archi­tec­ture book should be – as atten­tive to the aes­thet­ics of read­ing as to the nov­el­ty of its ana­lyt­i­cal con­tent.” Jonathan Vick­ery, AAJ Press

The book was reviewed by sev­er­al media out­lets includ­ing: Globe & Mail, AZURE, Cana­di­an Archi­tect, and Art & Archi­tec­ture Jour­nal Press; and, Con­crete Ideas, as they relate to Petricone’s own prac­tice was pre­sent­ed as an invit­ed lec­ture in the 2012 NORR Edu­ca­tion Series. Pina’s lec­ture, titled Mate­r­i­al Impres­sions: Strate­gies for Mak­ing Mean­ing dis­cussed the pre­oc­cu­pa­tions unrav­eled through sec­tions of the book via a selec­tion of recent Gian­none Pet­ri­cone Asso­ciates projects. Sim­i­lar­ly, Pina pro­posed at the Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Build­ing Intel­li­gence Project Think Tank an abbre­vi­at­ed argu­ment elab­o­rat­ed in Con­crete Ideas to suit a Pecha Kucha for­mat. The reduc­tion allowed the dra­mat­ic procla­ma­tion that what we might have his­tor­i­cal­ly regard­ed as util­i­tar­i­an and ‘cold’ can now be recon­sid­ered as volump­tu­ous and light. New nano tech­nolo­gies are now being devel­oped equal­ly for archi­tec­tur­al prob­lems where the ‘per­for­mance’ agen­da is now insep­a­ra­ble from the ‘aes­thet­ic’ agen­da in “faci­av­ista” con­crete.

Con­crete Ideas: Mate­r­i­al to Shape a City can be pur­chased here.