Monday, February 27, 2012

Concrete- physical characteristics

I am not much of a writer when I am not excited about the subject. Physical characteristics subject doesn't excite me a bit. Still it's necessary to know what this material is capable of. Being practical, cheap and therefore ubiquitous, it is often can be seen in a pretty bad state of decay. Eroded surfaces with rusty metal bars that appear from the cavities and nasty cracks  gives us the idea that this material lacks durability and that it is not trustworthy.  The critics have point, it doesn't age gracefully.

Comparatively recent concrete buildings ask for more maintenance than medieval castles. The news about Lloyd Wright's textile houses multimillion repair bills and pieces of Russian constructivism falling down on pedestrians heads do not add respect to the material. On the other hand it has so much potential that modern technology doesn't give up on it and  constantly works on it's improvement. The compression strength of concrete is high, tensile strength can be improved by adding reinforcement -steel bars and fibers.
Steel reinforcement increases tensile strength to such an extent, that concrete suspension bridges became a part of our environment since 1889. The use of reinforced concrete instead of iron made the construction much cheaper. The engineering science at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th was based on quite a romantic idea of mathematical beauty of the construction. Mathematically clever and correct meant beautiful. The complicated buildings of that period, especially bridges, are fascinating examples of human engineering genius and beauty. The breath-taking examples of modern and old bridges made of concrete and steel prove that utility can be beautiful.
The Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world

The word "Art" is present in all the descriptions of  great bridges.
"The Millau Viaduct takes its place among our most shining works of civil engineering," Chirac said while unveiling a commemorative plaque at the bridge. "[It] is a magnificent example in the long and great French tradition of audacious works of art, a tradition begun at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the great Gustave Eiffel." An architectural critic echoed: "an epic work of art [with] an ambition far beyond utility." Photo borrowed from this site
When we travel by car from the South of France back home I always want to take this road because of the Millau viaduct.

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