Hi there. My name is FP. I go by many other names, including some that are not very flattering, but I shall not get into that right now.
To kick off the first official, fully-fledged, real-deal, 100%, legit, no-added-sugar, topkek, organic ramble of this series, I am going to discuss a topic that is so close to my heart. Concrete.
I believe concrete, a majestic substance of construction and creation, is the most underrated building material in human history. Or maybe mud. In fact yeah mud is maybe more underrated. But no. I shall save mud for another ramble. Where was I? Oh yes, concrete. The second most underrated building material in human history. It gets bad rep due to modern, unimaginative architecture in which concrete buildings are boring slabs of grey, destroying the aesthetics of anything for miles around. But it has not always been this way.
The story of concrete begins all the way back in around 7000BC, when the Nabataeans (of 'Petra' fame) started experimenting with existing mixtures of cement. Within 5000 years of patient stirring and stuff, and some Nabataeans throwing stuff into a big vat of cement while a guy with a giant ladel stirs it (thats how I imagined it happening anyway), they came up with a near perfect recipe. Concrete was born, and with it, the first concrete structures known to man, putting this glorious substance to good use in the form of, um,
cisterns. But hey! Concrete was here, and it was planning to stay.
Next up were those old folks in togas, the Romans, and with the mortar of the gods they built arguably the most impressive piece of architecture of the era, the great Pantheon, which is topped with a superbly engineered concrete dome, 142 feet wide and 142 feet tall.
The Romans loved concrete. The freedom it gave them in design was liberating, and they began to chuck great swathes of the stuff all around the Empire. They used it in arches, domes, vaults, walls, floors - you name it. Well you'd probably be able to name something they didn't use it for, so maybe don't name it. Like doors. I doubt they had concrete doors. That would be impractical. They'd probably be made of wood. Hmm. That reminds me, I need to ramble about wood.
Anyway. The Romans loved it, but they soon faded away, the Empire collapsed, and the primary victim of all this was concrete. The technique of its creation was all but forgotten by the 6th century, and didn't pop up again until the Middle Ages, when it was sparsely used for more civil projects such as canals and the likes. Full-on usage didn't return until some major steps forward in concrete production, and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution.
[fanfares of menacing music]
In 1849, a time when concrete was one of the most thrilling fields of engineering with new discoveries on a yearly basis, a French concreteer (which I think they should be called) by the name of Joseph Monier pioneered a new method of concrete, which was a game-changer - reinforced concrete.
[wild cheers and applause]
This magical stuff paved the way for flipping HUGE constructions of terrifying proportions, such as the massive Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal. Concrete came into a golden age, when creations were actually remarkable feats of engineering and design, and were also rather easy on the eye. For example, the Tunkhannock Viaduct in Pennsylvania, a beautifully-proportioned and effortlessly elegant construction that was built more than a hundred years ago, yet still retains an air of stability and style. It is a timeless reminder of how to use concrete in a practical yet classy way. But, like most things in life, the 60s ruined everything.
Architects with more imagination than sense started getting over-excited and constructing monstrosities of concrete like Boston City Hall or Buffalo City Court, both of which are an insult to my eyes and concrete. 'Creations' like these have been ruining the good name of concrete for years, and now whenever someone says their primary building material for their new house is concrete, there are winces all round.
But recently there have emerged some vestiges of hope, with better designed concrete constructions such as the Robert Garza Sada Arts Centre in Mexico, or the MuCEM in Marseille, both of which are nicely designed, and avoid the blocky dullness of modern concrete buildings. Well. They are kinda block shaped. And still tbh aren't amazing looking. But they're cooler than the other ones. For sure. Aren't they? I don't even know, I know nothing about architecture.
To conclude, concrete is underrated, and I'm impressed about how much I could ramble on about it.
I hope you enjoy this ramble, because I sure enjoyed writing it. Comment if you want. Or don't. Let me know if you liked it. Or didn't. Suggest topics for me to ramble on if you want, but I'll probably ignore your ideas and ramble about whatever I feel like, because I'm my own man!