I can't remember when it was exactly that I became a big fan of concrete. It was either after having seen photos of Ando's Church of Light in 1999 or more likely having worked with the actual material in the Spring 2001 Materials and Assembly class.
Split into teams, we were tasked to design a concrete bench for the UC Turnaround and cast a section of it. I don't remember what we did with it, but even without any rebar, the cantilevered section we built held up pretty well.
Back then, concrete was still the dense, heavy and opaque material we've known it to be for years. But since graduating, R&D has made the material fit for a wider variety of applications. In 2005, I covered three such developments; bendable concrete, grancrete (sprayable ceramic), and translucent concrete.
Since 2005, further research has resulted in TX-Active (smog eating cement), precast concrete that stores carbon dioxide (though concrete naturally absorbs carbon dioxide as it cures), and other developments that reduce pollution during manufacturing or absorbs / break down pollution as a finished product.
Anyway, the entire point of this article was to draw attention to the Solid States - Changing Time for Concrete conference hosted by Columbia University during the second half of this week. Registration is free, so if you have the time to attend, let me know!