As much as I'd like to consider myself an independent thinker, I cannot escape the fact that my love of concrete is as direct an inheritance from my father as my very genetic makeup. I was in the batching plants, dispatching quantities of sand, cement, water and aggregate into ready mix trucks when I was in shorts. I was chasing said ready mix trucks around North Notts, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and even on the Channel Tunnel project in the summer between school and university. I was slump testing and cube crushing as my mates Eurorailed.
Harworth Colliery pit head - the longest continuous pour of concrete ever at the time - every time we passed it on the A1 back to Sheffield, and a little further south on the same road, he'd point out Sam Scorer's hyperbolic paraboloid concrete shell roof. I thought every Little Chef restaurant was like this until I grew up, not realising its uniqueness.
Our family holiday photos would always be interspersed with snaps of concrete cracking in allegedly interesting ways. I remember being dragged to a very grey place in sheeting drizzle, to witness the UK concrete canoe championship. Grey concrete, grey places in grey rain. Me and my two brothers in matching yellow kagools, patiently protesting. This was my childhood.
Although CQ is still around, it's written by marketing types. Originally, however, it used to be as vital an organ of modern architecture as any of the other architectural press aimed directly at architects.
The rise of CQ
On 25th May 1940, it became illegal to start a new magazine due to paper rationing. This may explain a rash of magazines in the immediate post-war period a rash that included Concrete Quarterly which started in July 1947. Its second issue, however, didn't appear until February 1948 and contained the doggerel
The Concrete QuarterlyIt's perhaps not surprising that the fortunes of CQ mirror that of the material it advocates whose exciting, unexplored properties promised to solve an optimistic new world's architectural problems. Architects would find the latest projects and techniques to fulfil this promise in CQ's pages.
Is not as punctual as it ought be to
The reason for this distortage
Is paper shortage.
Modernism got high on concrete in the 1960s and CQ's circulation soared to an impressive 23,000 in 1965, when the original editor, Betty Campbell, died. In 1961, she had predicted that 'the precast slab is already established as a versatile finish with a range of natural colour well-suited to our climate.' That would be grey, then: a colour that conveniently compliments black-and-white photography. CQs pages were harmoniously composed with drawings, text and photograph all singing the praises of concrete.
Architectural history written by a single material.
The fall of CQ
During the 1980s Concrete Quarterly was forever trying to address concrete's image problem: a cause I could empathise with at that time. Architect George Perkin took over as editor in 1965 and continued until 1988, changing the format with only a page of comment and, in 1980, a page of news. The concrete road features gave way to yard after square yard of paving. In these years of AR's Townscape, CQ became more pedestrian.
Art critic Peter Schjeldahl once wrote, 'you have to be a masochist to love concrete, enjoying the strength that your own capacity to love displays, until the strength is exhausted, when the loved one is a pitiless idiot.' CQ's strength had all but disappeared by 1988 when a new editor switched focus 'to structural economic and construction aspects.' Although Saint Calatrava was something to get excited about, CQ had to rest a while during the 1990s recession and became part of the AJ during its hypochondriac phase when it would take any supplement going. Like the material it represents, CQ's heyday is long gone and today, it simply fulfils a commercial need.
The magnificent entire back catalogue of this magazine, including the continuing issues, is available at:
the Concrete Centre's website who should be appluaded for this effort. Only one issue, the double 89/90 from Summer/Autumn 1971 is missing. I have this issue here, should anyone be interested.