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Concrete heritage: beleaguered, besieged, beloved, conserved

Thu, Apr 15, 2021    6:30pm

Concrete heritage: beleaguered, besieged, beloved, conserved - A lecture by Susan Macdonald

‘Concrete the most destructive material on earth’. So goes the dramatic title of the Guardian’s March 2019 podcast, launching a week-long investigation of concrete’s widespread use and the consequences. The articles and reactions generated, indicated that concrete is today reviled, beloved and everything in between.

The use of reinforced concrete developed initially slowly, from its early humble beginnings in the late nineteenth century, as a cheap alternative to, and used in imitation of stone and brick. Gradually this gave way to large-scale production and use in creating bold, new, innovative and extraordinary structures, securing concrete’s position as the predominant constructing material in many parts of the world. There is thus a need to address both its legacy and its future use. What are the implications of this vast concrete landscape? Where does conservation fit in the debate on the future of concrete? Are there implications for how we undertake conservation to embrace wider concepts of sustainable development?

Susan Macdonald joined the Getty Conservation Institute in 2008 as Head, Buildings and Sites, where she oversees over 20 projects that aim to advance conservation practice internationally involving research, field projects, training and dissemination. Susan has a BSc (Architecture) and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Sydney, and a Masters in Conservation Studies (University of York/ICCROM) and is a certified practicing planner. Susan has worked as a conservation architect in private practice in Australia and in England. She has also worked in the public sector where she was involved in a wide range of conservation issues at the strategic and bottom-up level, involving urban planning, development, economics, policy, technical matters and world heritage issues. Susan has as an interest in 20th century heritage and is a member of the DOCOMOMO International Specialist Technical Committee and a Vice President of the ICOMOS 20th Century Committee.


Organized as part of the Preservation Lecture Series, an initiative of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP. Free and open to the public. Virtual events hosted on Zoom Webinar do not require an account to attend.

GSAPP is committed to providing universal access to all of our virtual events. Please contact Meredith Brull via email at hp@arch.columbia.edu to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.