Concrete that treads lightly

Concrete Quarterly’s Spring issue is out, with a four-page focus on the King’s Cross development, where some of the UK’s most sustainable offices are taking shape. Sustainability is the theme of this edition of CQ (which I edit for the Concrete Centre and UBM). As well as the BREEAM “excellent”-rated buildings of Pancras Square, it features quite a few notable firsts: the UK’s first BREEAM “outstanding” public building (Brent Civic Centre), the first LEED platinum building in the Middle East (Siemens’ Abu Dhabi HQ), and the first building in the world to use cement-free concrete – the Global Change Institute in Brisbane, which is designed to produce more energy than it consumes and has a shading system that tracks the sun like a plant.

Homes of the rich and famous

Are you a concrete-obsessed billionaire searching for your dream holiday home? You could do a lot worse than check out Concrete Quarterly’s house-themed Winter issue (which I edited). So what’s it going to be? Norman Foster’s luxury apartments in downtown Buenos Aires (pages 4-7)? A modernist retreat apparently carved out of a rocky outcrop in the hills of Maharashtra, with a bath open to the skies (10-11)? Or, for those seeking a third way between luxury holiday and survival weekend, this extremely comfortable cyclone-proof bunker deep in the Queensland jungle (9)? It may look like the home of a Bond villain but the owner’s actually a stamp dealer (the clue’s in the perforated facade). And for the rest of us, there’s the rather more liveable Hill Top House – Japanese-style exposed interiors seamlessly inserted into an Oxford terrace.

Learning the hard way

There’s been something of a boom in concrete educational buildings lately, and really good ones at that – to the extent that one industry awards featured an entire category devoted to them. Concrete learning spaces was also the theme of the Autumn issue of Concrete Quarterly magazine (which I edit for UBM and The Concrete Centre). It of course includes Mecanoo’s very modern “people’s palace” of a library in Birmingham, alongside the classical concrete colonnades of 500-year-old St Paul’s School in west London. And don’t miss this issue’s archive slot, which features Trinity College Dublin’s library, completed in 1967, where exposed concrete was used not only for the outer and inner walls but all of the desks, screens and table supports too…

Fifty shades of grey

Concrete moulded into the shape of crumpled fabric, concrete that emits light, concrete that develops patterns as it eats pollution from the air, concrete walls inset with jewels and gold… if you think of concrete as a predominantly solid, grey and rather boring material, think again. The summer 2013 issue of Concrete Quarterly, which I edit for UBM and The Concrete Centre, features many surprising and beautiful examples of finishes, structures and works of art created by concrete’s devotees. Our cover star, meanwhile, is Foster + Partners’ Queen Alia Airport in Jordan, with some photos that could have come straight out of Star Wars.

Concrete cheesecake

The Spring issue of Concrete Quarterly (which I edit for UBM and the Concrete Centre) was devoted to “cool”, so it’s only fitting that the cover paid tribute to the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who probably did more than anyone else over his long career to demonstrate exactly how cool concrete can look. Also featured: the Co-op’s new HQ building in Manchester, a crazy fractal-shaped Teahouse in Shanghai that is impossible to draw on a plan, and a surreal museum on the French Riviera that has been compared to a mysterious plant, “enchanted hair” and a cheesecake.

Swansea’s concrete dragon

Summer’s Concrete Quarterly, which my company Wordmule produces for UBM and the Concrete Centre, told the story of the 13th Maggie’s Centre, just open in Swansea. These buildings are notable both for the quality and warmth of the care they provide to cancer patients, and the list of internationally renowned “starchitects” queueing up to design them. The Swansea centre was conceived by Japanese legend Kisho Kurokawa,  before he died in 2007, who imagined a swirling, dragon-tailed “cosmic whirlpool”. Now project architect Garbers & James has brought his napkin sketch to life, moulded from concrete and studded with titanium panels. Read all about how they did it here.

The lighter side of concrete

Carbon-neutral homes in inner city Derby that run on recycled vegetable oil and a German school that barely uses any energy at all were just two of the projects featured in the spring issue of Concrete Quarterly, which my company Wordmule produces for UBM and the Concrete Centre. Though all of the buildings are architecturally very attractive, the real theme this time was sustainability, and it was their environmental performance that earned their place within CQ’s pages.  You can also take a look behind the green glass facade of the Environment Agency’s new headquarters in Bristol, setting a very good example with one of the highest-ever BREEAM ratings – and a wildflower meadow on its roof.