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.