A nice piece on why we should love concrete in the Observer, part of Mark Miodownik’s excellent Material World series. He cites the Millau Bridge in France and Sydney Opera House as examples of beautiful structures in concrete. In fact, concrete has been a much prized material by the most aesthetic architects and bridge builders for almost a century.
Reinforced concrete was in fact invented towards the end of the 19th century and following the beautiful bridges of Robert Mallart (eg Salginatobel, 1930) its beautiful shapeliness was widely recognised. A line of artist-architects and engineers who used reinforced concrete stretches from Edward Torroja, through Felix Candela, Oscar Niemeyer, Heinz Isler, Santiago Calatrava, and Zaha Hadid.
Far from being a soulless material, reinforced concrete actually allows architects total plasticity and the ability to create shells that are proportionately as thin as eggshells. In the hands of Heinz Isler, the forms of the shells were designed organically by modelling the natural sag of networks (actually humble dish-cloths) and inverting them.
You can read the story of the remarkably organic plasticity of reinforced concrete in Chapter 9 of my book The Gecko’s Foot.
The illustration is Heinz Isler's garden centre Wyss in Zuchwil, (1962)