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Concrete information

Background information on concrete and buildings on here.

More information to follow - Still under construction!

I'm not going to try and regurgitate Wikipedia's excellent "concrete" entry, but reinforced concrete is a remarkable building material. It enables us to build structures of any size and shape, whether rigidly geometric, or organically flowing. And in the late-1960s and early-1970s many buildings were erected that blended both form and function.

Many of these buildings are often described (some would say inaccurately) as being "ultra-modern". I admit I am one of those people whom tends to describe these sorts of buildings - built from moulded concrete in an avant-garde and futuristic manner - as being of this architectural pseudo-style. Others describe such buildings as "brutalism" or simply "post-modern".

To my mind such buildings must possess that "needlessly but functionally stylish" paradigm, and be constructed in such a way, that only reinforced concrete would make such design possible. The previous generation of brickwork or stonework would simply not lend itself to the angularity or sweeping curves of these buildings. Similarly the typical contemporary trend towards "glass and steel" construction would not permit such a "moulded from clay" aesthetic.

It is this freedom to style buildings as abstract art rather than engineering during the 1960s which gave rise to the wonderfully futuristic designs such as The Tontine Centre car-park in St. Helens, with its spiralling car-ramp and it's geometric subway. Such designs were straight out of a Gerry Anderson production, and painted a picture of a "concrete world" where buildings were both stylish (in that flamboyant 1970s sort of way) and functional.

But of course, as we know and as history records, this idealism and design-focussed archetype was doomed within a decade. By the 1980s, many of these wonderfully weird concrete constructs were already falling to pieces. A mixture of (so-called) "concrete rot" combined with generally poor quality source materials meant that many of these large-scale civic buildings (car-parks, shopping centres, residential tower-blocks) were literally disintegrating. Many of the cheaper-built buildings were rapidly (and over-zealously) ripped down, to make way for soulless corporate late-80s/1990s "glass and steel" buildings. Indeed, even entire towns (such as the infamous "Legotown" area of Runcorn) were obliterated in one fell swoop.

But many large concrete structures still remained. Those of a more subtle or conservative "ultra-modern" design, which may have been more carefully constructed still stand today. The Wigan Civic Centre for example, is a fine example of a very 1970s concrete building, with subtle but nonetheless marked "ultra-modern" stylings. Erected in 1970, at a glance this building looks like a fairly conventional office block. But closer inspection reveals the 1970s design flair, from the unusual styled bulkhead walls, through to the geometrical protruding windows. And of course, it is built entirely from reinforced concrete.

More information and links coming soon!

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