Concrete explores the history of a material that has been central to architecture and design for thousands of years – and what its future looks like in a world experiencing rapid climate change.
Imagine a world without concrete: there'd be no skyscrapers, no grand irrigation projects, no out of season vegetables, no highways. There would be a shortage of electricity, more mud in some places, more solitude in others. But because of the fossil fuels and other resources required to make concrete, there also would also be less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and less dramatic climate change. In Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future, Mary Soderstrom tells the story of concrete's surprising past, extravagant present, and uncertain future with careful research, lively anecdotes, and thoughtful reflection.
Mary Soderstrom is the author of seven works of fiction and non-fiction. Her previous fiction has been shortlisted for the 1977 Books in Canada First Novel Award (The Descent of Andrew McPherson), and the QSPELL Hugh MacLennan Fiction Prize (Endangered Species, 1995, and Finding the Enemy, 1997). She currently lives in Montreal.
"A very readable, thoughtful and well-documented account of a material that helps and hurts us in almost equal measure."
– The Tyee
"[For] those of us who are thinking about, and educating for, deep cultural change, [...] for those of us that care about what it means to be good, in the deepest sense; to participants in an earth-system that is failing at human hands, in the context of recognizing the repercussions of the Anthropocene."
– Laura Sewall, author of Sight and Sensibility: The Ecopsychology of Perception
"A fascinating and overdue account of one of the world's most important, least appreciated materials."
– Vince Beiser, author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization
"Soderstrom delivers a globe-trotting tale full of fascinating details and unexpected detours, adding texture and contrast to a material that too often fades into the background."
– Christopher DeWolf, author of Borrowed Spaces: Life Between the Cracks of Modern Hong Kong
"Soderstrom's beautifully written book is full of fascinating information. Concrete traces the material and its use from ancient times to contemporary architectural projects. It is a voyage through time and places which along the way cast new light on a material that shaped the way we build and live. I very much enjoyed reading it [...] . I have been teaching construction for decades believing the I knew all that there was to know about concrete. Soderstorm's latest book is full of information which cleverly combines technical data, historic milestones, and carefully selected old and contemporary architectural projects to make for a fascinating read."
– Avi Friedman, Professor of Architecture, McGill University