Concrete is something many of us take for granted, but concrete is cool. The ancient Romans were experts at concrete construction – but they didn’t invent it; they just brought its use to an amazing level. The Pantheon, a public building constructed (or reconstructed depending on which archeologist you consult) between 118 and 128 AD, still holds the record for the largest non-reinforced concrete dome on the planet. Close to two thousand years it has stood. And the Romans built tons of other monumental projects from concrete.
An 1835 view of the Pantheon by Rudolph von Alt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome
The inside of the dome is awesome:
More fun-facts about the Pantheon can be found here: http://www.romanconcrete.com/docs/chapt01/chapt01.htm
And yes, it has an awesome oculus, and yes when it rains the water just gets in but there’s drains and it hasn’t been a problem for almost two thousand years. I really want to go to Italy and see that thing. But moving on.
By the fifth century BC the western Roman Empire; meaning Rome itself, wasn’t much to speak of. The city of Rome was taken over by various Barbarians – probably some of my ancient relatives – I’m of Danish, German and Irish extraction; and the construction of awesome concrete structures ceased until around the 18th century. Yes. That long.
Perhaps the greatest driver behind the modern usage of concrete was the third Eddystone Lighthouse in Devon, England. To create this structure, between 1756 and 1793, British engineer John Smeaton pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete, using pebbles and powdered brick as aggregate. A method for producing Portland cement was patented by Joseph Aspdin on 1824. Reinforced concrete was invented in 1849 by Joseph Monier. In 1889 the first concrete reinforced bridge was built, and the first large concrete dams were built in 1936, Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam.
What about that third Eddystone Lighthouse?
Smeaton was recommended to the task by the Royal Society and he modelled the shape of his lighthouse on that of an oak tree, using granite blocks. He pioneered the use of “hydraulic lime,” a form of concrete that will set under water, and developed a technique of securing the granite blocks together using dovetail joints and marble dowels.
Lighthouses are super cool.
Rolling into the 20th century, where would we be without Soviet-Style Socialist Architecture like this building, consistently making just about everybody’s list of most ugly buildings:
It’s ugly. Get over it. When Boston gets ahead with some money, their city hall needs to be demolished.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of super-ugly concrete buildings built in the 20th and 21st centuries. Feast your eyes:
I like this one:
Habitat 67 takeonproperty.com
Habitat 67, or simply Habitat, is a model community and housing complex in Montreal, Canada, designed by Israeli–Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. It was originally conceived as his master’s thesis in architecture at McGill University and then built as a pavilion for Expo 67, the World’s Fair held from April to October 1967. It is located at 2600 Avenue Pierre-Dupuy on the Marc-Drouin Quay next to the Saint Lawrence River. Habitat 67 is widely considered an architectural landmark and one of the most recognizable and significant buildings in both Montreal and Canada.
A new Science Museum and Aquarium is under construction in Miami as we speak.
They just finished a massive continuous concrete pour. Here’s a time-lapse:
All cool stuff. Now you;ll have to excuse me, I have to make travel arrangements to Montreal, Rome, and Miami without having to do a stopover in Boston.
Happy pre-New Year!