Concrete: Redefining an Identity
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Second only to water, concrete is the most widely used substance in the world. It is a mixture, at the most basic level, of aggregate, cement, and water that when cured, has incredible structural capabilities. Concrete is a material commonly used for its most prominent characteristic: compressive strength. Because this component of its identity is so strong, it often dominates over concrete’s other attributes. While designers tend to embrace concrete and its many attributes, the general public conversely tends to prefer other materials to concrete when offered a choice. Despite prominent examples of concrete being used to its full potential, it still suffers under a bad reputation. Those that don’t like concrete often view it as cold, hard, aggressive, gray, or just boring. Surprisingly, many people don’t even know how concrete is made. It is an incredibly malleable material for which, in recent years, new technologies have only scratched the surface for exploring ways to push its limits. Concrete’s broad applications as a material and misunderstood history have resulted in a lack of an established identity that successfully spans disciplines. This thesis explores the trajectory of concrete as a material and the ways in which its physical properties, application, and treatment largely go unrecognized and are commonly misunderstood by non-designers, resulting in this inconsistent and confused identity.