Photo: Vanessa Feri

Collection no. 011: Concrete

Spring 2024

Concrete, a versatile and durable building material, shapes our modern world. Its adaptability and widespread use across infrastructure and architecture reflect its significance in everyday life, culture, and economy. Despite its ancient roots, concrete is emblematic of modernity, symbolizing progress and development.

Recent scholarship delves into concrete’s complex history and impact. It has been both a symbol of political power and a marker of social and environmental challenges. Ethnographic studies reveal its significance from local to global scales, shedding light on its unexpected implications.

Concrete’s material agency, highlighted in various studies, challenges assumptions of stability and strength. Its enormous carbon footprint contributes to climate change concerns. While alternatives like “aircrete” are explored, concrete remains the dominant building material for now.

Critical literature emphasizes concrete’s contradictions and potentialities, spanning diverse geographies and histories. Papers in this issue explore concrete’s social, technical, and political entanglements worldwide. They analyze its role in shaping built environments, economies, and communities, while addressing sustainability challenges in the twenty-first century.

Edited by Max D. Woodworth and Cecilia L. Chu

Subscribe to our publication alert and follow us on social media!

Concrete: An Introduction

Max D. Woodworth and Cecilia L. Chu argue that concrete must be approached in ways that capture its dynamic material properties and its impacts on human and nonhuman relations over time.

An Urban Political Ecology of Concrete

Matthew Gandy considers four ways of understanding how concrete intersects with urban political ecology to reveal new cultural and scientific developments.

The Impact of an Interface: Exploring Concrete–Soil Entanglements

Susanne Trumpf focuses on the below-ground microbial world to argue that cementitious interfaces should be understood as part of the living environment.

Read article…

Heaving Concrete: Conversations Between Urban Trees and Sidewalks

Aaron Bradshaw examines how encounters between trees and hardened surfaces reveal other-than-human agents in urban spaces.

Read article…

Reframing Ports with Ecological Concrete

Lukas Ley demonstrates how the use of “ecological concrete” taps the liveliness of shore ecologies in ways that contribute to recreating nearshore habitats and alternative ecological futures.

Read article…

Between Concrete and Earth: Soil-Cement Brick and its (Failed) Promises

Yu-Han Huang reflects on how the soil-cement brick’s failure as a building material innovation in Taiwan was inseparable from its materiality and from normative assumptions of what is modern.

Read article…

Cultural Concretions: Hmong Creative Adaptation in Vietnam

Jean Michaud and Sarah Turner examine the transition to concrete-based infrastructure in rural uplands of northern Vietnam and the resulting adaptations of cultural practices.

Read article…

Concrete Agencies: Transforming Contested Watersheds in Rural Hong Kong

Natalia Echeverri documents the remaking of the lush valleys of Hong Kong’s Lantau Island through formal and informal concrete constructions that alter local landscapes.

Read article…

Postcolonial Imaginaries: Care and Concrete

Daniel Williford considers how concrete in Morocco has followed a trajectory from instrument of colonial rule to a central node within postcolonial imaginaries of autonomy. 

Read article…

Shaping Concrete on Social Media in Dakar

Pierre Wenzel discusses how social media has become a key site for the flow and exchange of concrete construction knowhow and the formation of urban aesthetic norms.

Read article…

Concrete Made in Africa

Focusing on the Abidjan and Lagos corridor, Armelle Choplin unpacks the major role of cement and concrete in shaping contemporary African landscapes and societies.

Read article…

The Concrete Pastoral

Eli Elinoff’s photo-essay reveals the proximities and relations generated by concrete across rural, extractive, industrial and urban spaces.

Read article…

Complete Roadsides Collection no. 011 in high resolution (54 MB)

View or download…

Complete Roadsides Collection no. 011 in low resolution (4 MB)

View or download…