Q.: What does a French term like trompe l'oeil have to do with concrete? I've seen it several times recently. And also how do you pronounce it?

A.: The best advice we've had on pronunciation is


with accent on the first part of the word. As you already know, it is a French expression. Literally it means "fool the eye." In painting, it refers to the representation of an object so exactly as to deceive the eye. The technique was used by the ancient Greeks; Zeuxis, for example, reportedly painted such realistic grapes that birds tried to eat them.

More recently flat murals and ceilings have been painted with architectural detail to suggest complicated three-dimensional elements. Tilt-up designers and builders have found this an economical way to add a dramatic sense of depth to panels cast flat at the building site. Sometimes wood rustication strips are used to cast grooves, perhaps an inch deep, that become part of the painted trompe l'oeil as shown in the accompanying photographs provided by Peter Courtois. See also the tilt-up article in Concrete Construction, September 1987, page 843.