The new face of concrete

Ever since its launch in 1947, Concrete Quarterly has been one of architects’ favourite feel-good publications, a magazine by people who love concrete, for people who love concrete. And now it’s a digital download too – the 248th issue, published this month, is the first to be available in a tablet-friendly format. More traditional readers will find that the print edition is 40% bigger too, with a new technical section for architects, a really techie section for engineers and an expanded “Retro concrete” feature, where we delve into CQ’s extensive archive for forgotten gems and invite renowned architects to choose their favourite concrete buildings. CQ is produced by my company Wordmule for the Concrete Centre and you can download both the print and digital issues here.

CQ Summer 2014_digi edition

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.

“Design for Climate Change” by Bill Gething with Katie Puckett

If this blog was updated rather sporadically last year, it’s because I spent a lot of it working on this book for RIBA Publishing with architect and climate change expert Bill Gething. It’s about adapting our buildings to cope with climate change – change that’s already happening and which will continue until well into the next century, even if we were to stop all carbon-emitting activity tomorrow. Higher temperatures threaten to make many of our homes, offices, schools and hospitals uninhabitable or prohibitively expensive to cool; the impact of increased rainfall and more frequent storms is less well understood. The book explores what changes we might experience in the UK, the consequences for our buildings and the ways that we use them, and the challenge that climate change presents to some of the most fundamental principles of modern architecture.

Design for Climate Change by Bill Gething with Katie Puckett, published February 2013 by RIBA Publishing
Design for Climate Change by Bill Gething with Katie Puckett, published February 2013 by RIBA Publishing

And if you don’t fancy slogging through all 200 pages, I wrote this (very much shorter) feature for Building magazine too.