I grew up with concrete. I think I’m over it, but I might be wrong.
My dad, being a civil engineer, used to have a stack of Concrete Quarterlys on the bookshelves by his patriarchal chair. CQ was an odd thing, it was a magazine about architecture that didn’t bother with breathless theoretical philosophising, it just said here’s this new material, concrete, and we can do wonderful things with it.
Thanks to the internet, the whole sixty years of it is available for free. I would have been seven when I read it first and I remember.
CQ now has strange overtones. I remember the sheep-covered Underhill, (page 2-8, Spring 1978), an underground house that convinced me that there could be a house that I could want to live in. Aside from that misplaced venture into anti-architecture, CQ seems like a hangover from the bold 1930s, when reinforced concrete was new! and exciting! and dynamic!
The reality, of course, is just plain ugly. CQ was printed in black and white until the 1980s and that alone makes concrete look good. I rode past the offices of Metal Box every day (pages 12-16, Spring 1977) and the photos make it look like a space station.
Sadly, what looks stark and bold and daring in black and white just looks grim in colour, because that colour is dull grey, crumbling and stained by rust and moss and pigeon shit. So instead of the bright new hygienic future of soaring towers and soaring expressways, we got harsh and hostile council estates and shopping centres best used as urinals. Instead of Corbusier’s sleek utopias, we got cities that were sterile, isolating, and tragic.
Fuck that and fuck you, memory.