Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ode to Concrete

Note this post is for the National Day of Writing. It is being submitted to Bud Hunt's gallery in the National Gallery of Writing.   It has nothing to do with education or technology or does it ....
my school sidewalk
Ode to Concrete

To most people concrete is grey, cold, sterile, and under their feet. It is hard, rough, practical, taken for granted, and ugly.
To me concrete is the greatest material in the world. It is the ultimate in tensions.

from Andrew Carr
Concrete is natural. It is aggregate(sand and stone), cement, and water. It is earth. It was invented by the Romans and it is the only thing left from the ancient world not built of stone.
Concrete is technology. It is man-made and full of chemicals: fly ash, water reducers, superplasticizers, accelerators, and retarders. There are complicated mix designs for innumerable applications. It is chemistry and science at its finest. There is even translucent concrete now.

Concrete is hard. It is sidewalk that scratches knees.

Concrete is soft. It is like pancake batter or chunky soup when mixed. It changes form. It is fluid and then very solid. It is a shape-shifter that adapts to any container. It can be formed, molded, carved, or engraved.

Concrete is strong. It is
walls that hold back earth, foundations that hold up massive skyscrapers, and bridges that hold thousands of cars.

Concrete is weak. It shifts in cold climates and always cracks. It requires steel inside for tensile strength. When designed and placed improperly it crumbles under earthquakes and kills thousands.

Concrete is ugly. It stands for industrialism and urban landscapes that are bleak with no life: the concrete jungle.

Concrete is beautiful.
It can be formed, molded, carved, engraved, ground, polished, and stained. It can be personalized with embedded objects. It is my art and I love it for its flaws and imperfections.
Concrete is a lot like me.

PS Here is a slideshow of some of my concrete art.


  1. You forgot to add that it inspired the best double pun of any journal name: "Concrete Abstracts".

  2. @gasstationwithoutpumps I am not familiar with that journal, but the name of my side business is Abstract Concrete :)

  3. Hi Michael,

    I am in Dr. Strange's EMD310 class at the University of South Alabama and have commented on your blog before. Concrete is amazing and so versatile. What I love most about concrete is that you can have unlimited creativity when using it. I enjoyed reading your post!

  4. Hi Mr. Kaechele, My name is Cody Coleman and I am in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I really liked your blog post. It was very interesting and a very different way of looking at concrete! I am from the country and to me concrete is a symbol of industrialism. I couldnt see your slide show but in researching some pictures and looking at someincredible architecture it has changed my outlook! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks Darlene for stopping back by.

    Cody I am glad you can see concrete from a different perspective. Don't forget people are often like this too and need to be seen from a different perspective.

    I fixed the link to my pictures if you want to see them.

  6. Thanks for this post, Michael. As a skateboarder, concrete is near and dear to my heart.

    In the last ten years in Arizona, we've experienced an explosion of free, outdoor, concrete skatepark development in most of the main cities and a few smaller towns. The feeling of urethane wheels rolling across smooth, seamless concrete is like nothing else I've ever experienced.

    The best parks in our state include concrete pipes, bowls, hips, banks, pyramids, humps, and ramps designed, arranged, and shaped to deliver just the right lift for tricks, as well as momentum to keep skaters moving through the courses without a lot of pushing.

    Once built, concrete skateparks rarely change, and yet they always seem new. If a park is well designed, the skateboarders who ride it will continually redefine it with new tricks, new angles, and new styles.

  7. Hi, I'm Abby Smith. I'm a student of Dr. Strange at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your post. I had never thought about the many different ways to look at concrete. I would have to say that I am one of those people to take concrete for granted. I would have never thought that concrete could be beautiful, but you have allowed me to see the beauty in concrete. Thank you for sharing your love of concrete with the rest of us.