Sunset Chapel, Mexico, Geisel Library, Integral House Toronto, concrete living in Berlin, Stylestalker 2012 via Oracle Fox, Rachel Whiteread’s ‘House’ 1992, long shadows in the Los Angeles river by Epicly Later’d, Kim Cespedes by Warren Bolster, Carlsbad skatepark by John O’Malley, Brasilia’s National Museum by Niemeyer.
I always saw concrete as an ugly necessity for urban living until I moved to Southern California for a year to study at UC San Diego. Living on the gigantic campus, it felt like the endless expanses of concrete were standing between me and wherever I was trying to go. After a while though, I noticed the way it seemed to absorb and reflect the heat and light from the sun. I noticed the patterns and ripples on its surface when I looked at it for too long, the fact that it was as warm and flat as the beach and retained the heat way after sunset, and the way people interacted with it. It was also hard not to love Geisel Library, the other concrete monument on campus. Now, I love the way that bare, grey concrete is used in fashion shoots, interiors and art.
Arriving in San Diego for the first time, I immediately realised that, although there’s a preconception that Southern Californians take to water easily, the truth is that concrete is the most familiar part of the landscape for many people who live there. They’ve just learned to overcome it with cars and skateboards.
The photographer Warren Bolster captured the beginnings of skating culture in California when people were still working out how skateboarding would fit in with surfing. What they were really trying to work out was how concrete fit with water; they figured it out when they built the world’s first skatepark in Carlsbad in 1976 whose undulating moguls earned it the name, the “concrete wave.”
The recent death of Oscar Niemeyer reminded me of his curved concrete buildings which are also inspired by the organic contours found in nature. He famously said: “It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve — the curve that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuous course of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean…” There are more images of Oscar Niemeyer’s work here.