“In the beginning, man dreamed of stones bonded to stones. Later, when that dream became reality, the human spirit demanded something more than pure construction ... .” So begins one of the chapters in Concrete Ideas for Living. Only a few short years ago, we knew concrete was strong and utilitarian, but it was seldom recognized as attractive or inspiring. But with the recent explosion of concrete into beauty, Cemex, a leading cement and concrete producer, has published a book of striking residential architectural design, construction craftsmanship, and artistic creations in concrete. Chapter by chapter, this book leads the reader from concrete's history into its amazing present and future.
Interiors, exteriors, innovations, and new concrete systems for home building are presented in tantalizing detail. From Roman concrete (a lost art until the mid-seventeenth century), the book leaps forward to its rediscovery and utilitarian use during the Industrial Revolution then moves into residential design with a 1920 Frank Lloyd Wright home.
Each chapter and each photograph illustrate the advantages of building homes with concrete: the security of concrete homes to stand up to hurricane and tornado winds, the energy gain that reduces heating and cooling costs, the ability to resist pest and water damage, and the stability in earthquake zones. The book highlights the quietness and peace of living in a concrete environment, suggesting that there is no better way to keep your family safe than a concrete home.
The editors are especially interested in the marriage of concrete with steel and glass, the effect of light in shadows and reflection, the harmony with the building site, and the addition of water elements, leading concrete surfaces to alternately appear geometric and crisp or soft and quieting. Concrete, a natural material integrates well with stone, wood, glass, and water.
The house featured on the cover of this magazine was designed by Wallace Cunningham, San Diego. Cunningham fuses the building with its site. His design uses long runs of glass that seem to flow along the ocean edge, allowing light to play throughout the structure, filtering, reflecting, and highlighting. The heaviness of the material contrasts with a structure that appears to float above the water.
This cast-in-place concrete home creates a bridge over a circular terrace with rising spiral entry ramps of concrete. The forming method was standard wood and the concrete incorporated a Type III portland cement and diatomaceous earth to add a warm tone. The finish is smooth. Guy West, a partner in Cunningham's firm, oversaw the construction. The homeowners are building developers for rehabilitated buildings and always wanted a concrete home. Pacific Southwest Structures, La Mesa, Calif. did the concrete work. “It's a matter of using concrete like a sculptor or a potter,” says Cunningham. Concrete is so plastic, he says, that you can get an incredible and permanent expression of character in a form that you cannot obtain any other way. Unlike wood or steel, concrete's structure is its final finish—if used correctly. Cunningham has more to say about building with concrete in a new book, Materializing the Immaterial, by Joseph Giovannini, published by Yale University Press.