Of all building materials and their respective histories in culture and material science, concrete is perhaps one the more confounding. Shaped and transformed like a plastic or molten metal, concrete embodies a catalytic geology, fossilizing inertia, gravity, weight, longevity, and time. The consequence, a poetic manifestation of pervasive use, from the banal and utilitarian to the monumental and spectacular — a binding mortar in masonry and ceramics, a structural frame of columns, foundations, and floor slabs, a facade of precast panels or béton brut, an infrastructure of roads, tunnels, bridges, and dams. What timber is to the primitive hut, the post and lintel, concrete is to both utility and monumentality, the arch, dome, and vault; with application and performance as versatile as the human imagination.
The Rome Concrete Poetry Hall invites entrants to project and cast their own imagination in the formation of a multipurpose concrete building in historic Rome. The siting harkens to both the history of concrete and of monumentality in the context of antiquity and western civilization’s cultural heritage. At the center of a piazza, transcribed by a railway, the project necessitates subterranean excavation, recontextualizing Rome’s archaeological past. Successful projects conscientiously engage the technological and cultural possibilities of concrete as a building medium within this framework. The jury showed preference to projects that explore the spatial, material, structural, conceptual, and cultural agency of this ever expanding building science.