Wednesday, 21 October 2015

100 Contemporary Concrete Building

100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings come in two volumes that offer many well-composed photographs of outstanding and breathtaking constructions. One of them is situated near where I happen to live most of the time: the Salginatobel Bridge, Schiers, Switzerland (Robert Maillart, 1930).

Concrete, I learn from the introduction, is "a kind of 'liquid stone' at the outset, it is malleable, durable, and, in the right hands, capable of prodigious feats of engineering."

My knowledge of architecture is virtually non-existent and so I'm not only fascinated by but in awe of what the pictures in these two rather heavy volumes are showing me. Buildings that seem somehow unreal. Looking at these pics felt like an introduction into science fiction for some of these constructions I simply thought unbelievable. 
Photographs can be eye-openers and this is certainly true for the ones in these two volumes that not only direct my eyes to very diverse constructions but make my imagination come alive in many, rather unexpected ways – I felt transported into another universe.

100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings invite my mind to wander. The very varied and imaginative display of constructions, from churches to museums to theaters and auditoriums, made me often pause and reflect. 

The questions that came up were not of the technical kind – what exacty did the architects do and how did they do it? – but had to do with the effect the photographs of these buildings had on me. The fact that I'm stressing that I'm looking at photographs and not at buildings is not insignificant: What my eyes are showing me is what the photographer has decided to show me.
Needless to say, a photograph of a building, or of parts of a building, is not the same as the real thing. To me, the photographes in 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings are essentially pointers, they make me want to go and see these constructions for myself.

On the other hand, these photographs show me aspects of these buildings that I myself (and on my own) would have very probably not been able to see. Take, for instance, the above pic to the right: Would I have chosen to look at it from the same distance? Would the weather have permitted to see the reflection in the water? etc. etc.

In other words: What we get to see is the photographers' view of the buildings. I do find the images intelligently composed and truly inspiring.
Among the 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings are constructions (this is a very arbitrary, spur-of-the-moment selection) by Tadao Ando, Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, Valerio Olgiati, Renzo Piano, and Peter Zumthor.

100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings is a most impressive tome that invites readers/viewers to make discoveries. Among the ones that I think fabulously unique (actually all of them are) I'd like to point out the CDD –  Center for Disabilities in Seregno, Italy, 2009-13 by Archea Associati; the Vedoble Houses in Cañete, Peru, 2008-11 by Barclay & Crousse; the Tenerife Auditorium in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, 1997-2003 by Santiago Calatrava and  and and ... as I've already said: all of them are fabuously unique!

Philip Jodidio
100 Contemporary Concrete Building
Volumes 1 & 2
English, German, French
Taschen, Cologne 2015

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