»Using ancient methods, we have suddenly achieved the finest exposed-concrete ever made,« Le Corbusier wrote in 1954 in a letter to his mother from Chandigarh, where he had just com-pleted the first of his government buildings. For him, »béton brut« had to be sculptural and raw, irregular and powerful.
This philosophy still has its adherents today, as is demonstrated by the new library in Beidaihe, China, which stands like a monolith in the landscape, defying wind and weather, its surfaces reflecting the interplay of light and shade occasioned by the sawn softwood shuttering. Quite a different impression is conjured by a school in London, where the concrete has a smooth, white, gleaming appearance. Here, the animated quality of the precast facades is based largely on the rhythm of the angular window reveals.
The exterior of the German School in Madrid is characterized by a combination of precast and in-situ concrete, with a latticework of balustrades and diagonal load-bearing columns. These and the other buildings in this issue show the enormous scope that exists for using concrete today. What’s more, as the range of innovative exposed-concrete surfaces described in the introductory Discussion shows, this ancient building material is always good for a surprise, presenting ever new faces.