Menu Close

Thesis 2017 – Transmutations of Concrete

1. The dream of transmutation, the transformation of one (common) thing to another (superior) one has been forgotten. Forgotten much like the quest for the philosopher’s stone – essential to this purpose. After all, even diamonds can be produced synthetically today, without the mysteries of Hermes Trismegistus written on the emerald tablet: Verba secretorum Hermetis Trismegisti. And yet, the concept of turning one inherently common material into an unusual thing still arouses reflection. This is also the case with concrete.

2. Concrete, a building material, a common thing today, has both its enthusiasts and sceptics in architecture. The former consider it to be a modern stone predestined to create beautiful, sublime and wonderful things. The latter regard it as an “ugly” material, suitable for raising technical elements of buildings, unworthy of revealing its appearance. In fact, both the “stone” and the “concrete” can be used to build a road, and – a monument. However, to create a work of architectural art, one needs to subject this material to transmutation. And it is not always known how such a superior (architectural) thing will be obtained. It is known that to obtain a work of art, one should hire a master. But where is the master alchemist, who is it?

3. It is widely believed that the great magus of the concrete alchemy is Le Corbusier; he created successive works of unpredictable brutalist originality; Carlo Scarpa built elegant versions of such architecture. Robert Maillart combined ideologies of the perfection of form structure, without looking back at the principle of Kubla Khan remembered by Marco Polo. The master of things with ideal walls – nice and clean, smooth, velvety – is Tadao Ando. Aurelio Galfetti’s architecture takes its place right next to it in the world of concrete transmutations – it is sophisticated, precise, flawless, like Ricardo Bofill’s metaphorical, poetic prefabricated units. Max Berg began ideologies of span (and height) records with his dramatic forms close to Zaha Hadid’s monumental concrete works and perhaps the sculptures of Fritz Wotruba…

There are many types of transmutation effects: the works of magi are called – masterpieces of architectural art. Apart from them there is just – concrete architecture.

4. There is no single theory of concrete transmutation, just like there is no single theory of architecture. The creators speak different languages. They all believe only in the principles once announced by Vitruvius. In the past, alchemists recorded their magic principles; in the seventeenth century the Polish alchemist Sendivogius Polonus formed twelve principles of transmutation. The great magi of the twentieth century, the creators of concrete architecture, knew nothing about them. Neither did they know about the essential philosopher’s stone.

5. It is fitting to recall here a pertinent issue concerning concrete and building technology, not without links with economics (and remembering about Vitruvius). This world requires rules and uses rules. It is the pure world of science, technology, discoveries and achievements resulting from the pursuit of progress. These achievements are not so much a secret as they remain invisible for the viewer, the recipient of architecture, and usually also for art critics. They constitute the domain of the occult of another magi family: engineers. Without them, transmutations of concrete would be impossible.