Concrete Pleasures

A couple of my current projects have me greatly enjoying the pleasures of concrete.  I love the stuff for a variety of practical and aesthetic reasons.  This is not new – the mesmerizing rotation and great mass of the mixer truck transfixed me as much the next kid.  Now, I am a happy peddler of the upscale modernism that fills the pages of Dwell magazine where the clean lines and muted color palettes make concrete a perennial favorite. I can’t resist.

Just as important to me, the tools of the trade, the remarkable plasticity of the material and the genius with which it has been used all give me great pleasure.    I am a fan of the hidden seismically sound foundation retrofit under my Bay Area home.  I am a fan of greatly celebrated works of concrete architecture by Tadao Ando, Jorn Utzon, Eero Saarinen and a few of their predecessors stretching back to the Ancient Romans. I am a fan of the pedestrian urban sidewalk.

My current concrete work is neither as engineered as a Bay Area house foundation nor as genius as a great work of architecture but it is nonetheless transforming – testament to the potential of even small, strategic installations of the material.  Here are a couple of examples.

In this Berkeley rear yard, I installed only four cubic yards to knit together some really broken circulation patterns between house, deck, rear yard and side yard.  Now it works and looks great.

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In this steep San Francisco rear yard, we’re creating a beautiful terraced garden with smooth concrete seat walls along the side setbacks.  In the near future there will be a lush palette of California native shrubs on the outside perimeter, contained by these serene walls, and two level terraces – one for child’s play and one for adult play.

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