Concrete has been around for a long time now, but it is only since the early 20th century that its real value as a building material started to be recognised.
The Bauhaus architects in Europe in the early 20th century put concrete to good use, experimenting with sculptural forms in buildings such as Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Cathedral and Mies van der Rohe’s striking planar buildings.
In more recent years architects such as Corea and Tadao Ando have also exploited the unique qualities of concrete to create strikingly beautiful structures.
Concrete has long had the only partly deserved reputation of being ugly and unappealing. The strength and hard-wearing nature of concrete has led it to be associated with industrial and institutional applications.
The Surry Hills Police Station is a good example of so-called brutalist architecture which concrete has come to be associated with.
There are, however, many examples of beautiful sculptural buildings which were only possible due to concrete’s unique flexibility and strength.
In the last 10 years or so, more and more people have started to use concrete for domestic applications, and this shows signs of continuing.
There are various ways to use concrete in construction, and these impact on the final appearance of a building.
Off-form concrete is concrete poured on site. Everyone is familiar with the sight of the concrete mixer truck on building sites.
Most often the truck is pumping concrete into the structural elements of the building, the floor slabs, columns and lift wells, but more and more often feature elements are constructed by this method too.
Concrete blocks are the most common form of concrete used in residential architecture. They’re cheap and easy to use and you would be surprised at how many buildings around you are constructed of these. The cheaper ones aren’t beautiful though, and are almost always covered up with cement render and painted.
There are, however, many attractive concrete blocks, such as Boral split-faced blocks, which can be used for feature walls.
Tilt-up concrete emerged in the 80s and also enjoyed a brief period of popularity in domestic and commercial architecture.
In this type of construction the concrete is poured off-site in large slabs which are then assembled on site.
Quick and easy, this type of construction has a particular aesthetic that lends itself more to commercial applications, so it hasn’t really taken off in the domestic sphere although many townhouses were constructed this way in the early 90s.
Tilt-up is most often seen in industrial estates where office buildings need to be built quickly and cheaply. Raw unfinished concrete as a finish has also taken off recently, with the industrial aesthetic becoming popular.
It is also possible to paint or polish concrete floors and walls, as well as adding pigments and decorative elements during the pouring process.
Concrete’s strength and practicality definitely make it worth considering when choosing a construction material for a new home.