The usage of concrete was explored by the Early Christian and Roman architects but fell out of use throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance period. The material was only fully explored again in the later half of the 19th century but only for mundane purposes where the material was cheap, easy to work with, and versatile, but most importantly it’s fireproof characteristic. In 1870, the idea of reinforcing the concrete was born; steel rods were to be inserted to increase its strength. Taking this principle, Ernest Ransome (America) and Francois Hennebique (France) both developed frame systems. From this, open plan workspaces with large windows were created and it was proved to be well accommodated where fire had previously been a danger. Hennebique’s system used slim vertical posts, thin parallel beams on brackets and floor slabs; this resulted somewhat like a timber frame. Concrete was one of the most flexible materials and one with a least determining form. Concrete relied on its mould and the intelligence of its designer to give it aesthetic qualities for one to appreciate it. This became much more obvious when the architects of the last 19th century attempted to discover a style based on this material.
One of the pioneers who used reinforced concrete as a building material is Auguste Perret. Auguste Perret was heavily influenced by reading the works of Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc who backed the unification of architectural form and techniques of construction which had lost its technique in the 19th century. Perret spent 1891-1895 in the Académie des Beaux-Arts under the guidance of Julien Guader. He taught his students the classical principles of composition and proportion with the analysis of building types. Perret left the academy to join the family construction firm with his brother Gustave, where he began to experiment with reinforced concrete. In 1902, Perret designed an apartment at 25 Bis Rue Franklin in Paris. This building was based on the trabeated, rectangular concrete-frame construction. The building was to face the Eiffel Tower and Seine which Perret cleverly maximized the views by making the window openings as large as they could go, staying in the allowed regulations. Because of the standard expectations to the middle class occupancy, the plan had to acclimate to it; he placed the saloons at the center of the facade, but the concrete-frame system allowed for thin wall partitions and some saving in space.
“This potential was more obvious at the ground floor where the Perret firm moved its studio, and where the stanchions appeared in free space as premonitions of the pilotis so important to the architecture of the 1920s.“
The result of Perret’s careful attention to proportion and detail along with the use of reinforced concrete structure was a appraise work of great abstinence and response. In 1905, the decision of leaving the concrete bare or rather, ‘completely exposed’ was proved at the garage design at 51 Rue de...