Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925; doi:10.3390/su12155925 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Building the Future on Lessons of Historic
Maria Bostenaru Dan
Department of Urban and Landscape Design, Faculty of Urbanism, “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture
and Urbanism, 010014 Bucharest, Romania; Maria.Bostenaru-Dan@alumni.uni-karlsruhe.de
Received: 12 May 2020; Accepted: 20 July 2020; Published: 23 July 2020
Abstract: This contribution presents the way the construction material reinforced concrete was
introduced at the beginning of the 20
century, from both the technical (Hennebique system) and
the philosophical points of view. The philosophy underlying the use of this material is evident in
the theories on finding a language of form corresponding to tectonics, and its dialogue with timber,
formulated by certain notable practicing architects of the time across Europe. Not to be neglected
are aspects relating to the conservation of material and to interventions carried out over time. In
Modernist times, this meant a change from the artistic expression of Art Nouveau. Today, it means
technical adaptation. The paper addresses thus sustainability of intervention versus conservation.
century architecture; historic concrete; conservation
Concrete had existed since the Roman times, but it was Joseph Monier (8 November 1823 Saint-
Quentin-La-Poterie–12 March 1906, Paris) who conceived the idea of reinforcing it, showing the idea
at the Paris Exhibition 1867. Although reinforced concrete was a new material which spread during
the heyday of Modernism, its language of form was sought after during the Art Nouveau period. The
new material introduced at the time of Art Nouveau was iron, but the discussion on finding new
forms for new materials applied equally to reinforced concrete. In many parts of Europe, unlike older
buildings which are doubtless recognized as heritage, buildings from the 20
century still struggle to
get this status, not being considered old enough. Also, the innovative material concrete was seen in
that time as technological revolution, as we will see in this paper, but proved in history not to be an
everlasting material. At that time, the material was suitable for industrial production and was also
employed in industrial buildings, since the challenge of early 20
century was related to economic
efficiency and industrialization. The challenges of the beginning of the century were connected to the
mass movement of the population to cities, in search of work places in the context of industrialization,
and this was highlighted also in the discussions (conference, films, exhibitions) of Bauhaus 100
anniversary last year (1919–2019). Today’s challenges are different and related to environmental
protection. Sustainability is an issue we have to take into account when thinking today of future
generations, since resources are limited. The city cannot expand anymore, and these environmental
issues are building a mostly invisible fortification around the city, sometimes visible as a green belt.
Intensive construction replaces extensive construction. As such, the reuse of the materials they are
made of or of the whole buildings of early 20th century is one of the challenges of today, especially
since concrete aged and security requirements also evolved since and are not met today anymore.
The sustainability of concrete as production material was addressed in . Today, some buildings
present challenges of security  against earthquake. According to the Brundtland report in 1987, 33
years ago now, the sustainability of concrete has to be put into question. Mindes and Aitcin  built
on this affirmation when thinking of the material included in concrete, but concentrated on
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contemporary concrete. However, the reuse of existing buildings satisfies the criteria set, since new
material is only sparsely produced. Hence the necessity for reuse and restoration touched in case of
some of these buildings. In case of demolitions, some examples with material reuse have been shown.
Sakai and Noguchi  look instead at the sustainable use of concrete. While looking to the history of
concrete employment from Roman times and in the past century in parallel, the same issues are raised
regarding material flow, but including aspects as landscape destruction and economic
Life cycle assessment is needed, and there are efforts to network internationally for this, for
example in the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) RESTORE “Rethink
Sustainability towards a Regenerative Economy” network, including the circular economy. Historic
constructions shall satisfy today’s safety and energy regulations and be upgraded accordingly, while
maintaining original substance in order to comply with monument protection regulations but also
because of material sustainability issues. In Karlsruhe the former Institute for Industrial Production
at the Faculty of Architecture is dealing now with the life cycle assessment of buildings. One of the
teaching modules run is called “integral planning” and means including in the initial stages of
architecture planning of all other disciplines. This can be extrapolated for existing buildings, for
example, in seismic retrofitting, as done in the research of the author , by including building
survey, economics, and structural issues while performing the architecture project of reuse.
Further to the Brundtland report, the EXPO (World exhibition) 2000 Hannover was also bound
to sustainability principles, containing issues regarding the use of local materials and water. The
author visited the EXPO and saw in the Netherlands pavilion an innovative employment of the
principles regarding the basement-body-roof principle of a building, also in concrete . Examples
of the conservation of early buildings in reinforced concrete are given here in more detail for Italy. In
this seismically prone country, it is not only the aging of the material that poses a problem, but also
the load bearing characteristics. Several studies on such characteristics of historic reinforced concrete
structures were carried out by the University of Genoa , for example, related to the restoration and
functional conversion of the former Hotel Colombia (1921–1926) to a university library, or to the Stock
Exchange building (1909–1912)(Figure 1)  and the Grand Hotel Miramare (1906–1908). Although
Porcheddu, the agent of Hennebique in Italy was based in the North, in Turin, and most works were
concentrated there, buildings made of early reinforced concrete which need repair and maintenance
are found throughout the country, also in the South, like the Risorgimento bridge in Rome and
Viaduct Corso Italia in Bari .Later on, we will address the case of a Portuguese bridge as well.
Figure 1. Functional reconversion and restoration of a reinforced concrete building Hennebique.
University library (formerly hotel Colombia), Piazza Principe, Genova, Italy. (photo M. Bostenaru,
Challenges of the conservation of industrial buildings are addressed by The International
Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage TICCIH . The charter  promotes
functional in situ conservation, but accepts reuse.
If demolition is unavoidable, recycled concrete  is an answer for a circular economy. Studies
are being carried out in Portugal, at the University of Minho, using concrete from a bridge due to be
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demolished . In the Bürgerparkviertel (1996–2001) in Darmstadt, Germany, on the place of
dismantled industrial buildings for meat production (1887–1908) which were abandoned since 1988,
new buildings were built employing recycled concrete. Kramm et Strigl  built so both offices and
parking (Figure 2), and after the plans of Hundertwasser (15. December 1928 in Vienna–19. February
2000 Queen Elizabeth 2 in Brisbane) the first German housing building “Die Waldspirale” (forest
spiral) (Figure 3) was built. In these instances, recycling concrete was used, after having been used
before only in road construction .
Figure 2. Bürgerparkviertel Darmstadt: the office and parking buildings with recycled concrete.
(photo: M. Bostenaru, 1999).
Figure 3.Waldspirale Darmstadt. (photo M. Bostenaru, 2005).
The material can also be repaired, as one innovative technology being self-healing to repair
cracks, as from aging or earthquakes . Magdalini Theodoridou applied this to building stone in a
MSCA (Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions) project at Cardiff University [15,16].
Research methods included the analysis of historical written philosophical works (philosophy
as research method in architecture), classification and analysis of photographs from the collection of
the author gathered over years (presented in the work mentioned at acknowledgements), literature
review including primary literature from books, journals, and conferences, news reports, and
websites, including databases on the conservation state, biographies of the architects and engineers
of the works, archive research, visit of exhibitions, own architecture internship in the office of Kramm
et Strigl, and also editing of the author’s ownbooks and attendance and presentation at relevant
conferences (Riga, Milan, Guimarães) pertaining to the large subject of this research including
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2. Language for Reinforced Concrete
In this paper, reinforced concrete will be regarded as a structural material, and, for this purpose,
there will first be a review of Kenneth Frampton’s view of tectonics , followed by an analysis of
the theories and practice of early 20
century architects employing reinforced concrete. Tectonics may
also be the solution to deal with the material when intervening in historical buildings, such as Anne-
Catrin Schulz’s  work on layers in the oeuvre of Carlo Scarpa.
2.1. Review of Kenneth Frampton’s Tectonics with Regard to Reinforced Concrete
In his introduction to “Reflections on the Scope of the Tectonic”, Kenneth Frampton discusses
the greater scope given to the concept of tectonics. Viollet le Duc was the first to change the view on
tectonics which had existed since Ancient Greek times, introducing the logic of construction. Kenneth
Frampton recognizes that the study of tectonic culture aims at mediating the priority of the given
space with the constructional and structural models through which it is achieved. He identifies three
vectors: “topos”, “typos”, and “tectonic” and emphasizes the independence of tectonics from style,
but not from site and type. Frampton’s words are not new, however. From 1843–1852 Karl Bötticher
wrote three volumes on The Tectonic of the Hellenes , distinguishing between ’Kernform’
(nucleus shape) and ’Kunstform’ (artistic shape), that is, what we nowadays call container and
contents, or structural skeleton and ornamentation. In Bötticher’s work, ‘Kernform’ refers to the
timber rafters, and the ‘Kunstform’ “the petrified beam ends in the triglyphs and metopes of the
classical entablature”. This type of discourse was taken up again in essays exploring the poetics of
concrete as a material, at the beginning of the 20th century. Timber was examined in the same
manner, for example by István Medgyaszay, as we will later see. Bötticher’s theory was taken further
by the seminal work of Gottfried Semper , who differentiated between lightweight and mass:
tectonic/stereotomics (stereotomic meaning “solid” and “cut” in Greek and being thought to be load
bearing masonry). Frampton refers to this as “constructive mass and tensile frame”. As Frampton
notes, Semper’s theory was supported by the German language, where “Wand” refers to infill walls
in skeleton construction and “Mauer” refers to the heavy load-bearing wall composed of artificial or
natural stones superimposed and bound with mortar.
Although already possible in timber, this kind of separation became evident with reinforced
concrete, which allowed three types of relationship between structure and space: structural plan
(with the heavy load bearing walls separating into functional units), free plan (where the two are
distinct) and the ‘Raumplan’ (where spaces are connected, in a structural frame), the last named
introduced by Adolf Loos. On a personal note, this is also supported by the German language, which
has the word “Massivbau” meant for materials such as brick/stone and reinforced concrete, to be
differentiated from timber and metal. Semper later wrote a work about materials themselves, the
Stoffwechsel-theory , where he differentiated between wood, basketwork, and textiles, which are
tensile, and stonework, brickwork, rammed earth, and reinforced concrete, which are compressive
materials. However, the architects of the early 20th century identified the possibility of building the
skeleton form in reinforced concrete, the wattle and daub infill type of timber. Other
interdependencies exist; Frampton notes, for instance, that masonry bonds are a form of weaving.
Finally, there is mention of the durability of materials; for example, mud disintegrates, and wood is
ephemeral, while stone endures over time. Reinforced concrete is artificial stone. Finally, Frampton
notes that Semper’s theory is rooted in the emerging science of ethnography. In fact, Ákos
Moravánszky, another architecture theoretician who studied Semper as well as the early reinforced
concrete theory devised by Medgyaszay, also emphasized the ethnographic influences in the Central
European architecture of the early 20th century . The ’Kernform’ and ’Kunstform’ of Bötticher
were developed by Semper into the technical and symbolic aspects of construction, which then were
related by Frampton as “representational and ontological aspects of tectonic form” . In
philosophy, ontology studies the nature of being. Today, it is used in computer science, as the basis
for object-oriented software design by formally representing the concepts within a domain and their
relationships. Frampton  refers to Semper, finding that the earthwork, frame, and roof are
ontological and the hearth and infill wall are representational or symbolic. The ontological aspect
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thus reflects the superposition of registries . Recently, Sandaker wrote an ontology of structured
space , presented at the same conference  where a discussion took place during which there
was a dedicated session to this work by Frampton. In his lecture in 1905 “On the likely development
of architecture”, the Dutch architect Hendrik Berlage  also differentiated between constructive
and non-constructive parts of spatial enclosure. In connecting tectonics to ontology, which is a
philosophical concept, Frampton comes to Heidegger’s phenomenological work “On the Origin of
the Work of Art”  (1956, in Poetry, Language, Thought). Here, the author reflects on the
relationship between material and form, examining whether the relationship has its origin in the
character of the thing  or that of the work of art, and “conceives architecture as having the capacity
not only of expressing the different materials from which it is made but also revealing the different
instances and modes by which the world comes into being: ’the temple-work, in setting up a world,
does not cause the material to disappear, but rather causes it to come forth for the very first time [...]
The rock comes to bear and rest and so first becomes rock; metals come to glitter and shimmer, colors
to glow, tones to sing, the world to speak. All this comes forth as the work sets itself back into the
massiveness and heaviness of stone, into the firmness and pliancy of wood, into the hardness and
luster of metal, into the lighting and darkening of color, into the clang of tine and into the naming
power of world’” . The paragraph is also quoted in  by reflecting on the relationship between
technique and art, what in architecture is always the case, between technology/engineering and art.
We notice that Heidegger  also considers the sonic space, not only the tactile. Finally, in his
introduction, Frampton  turns to the topic of tradition and innovation, also applicable to
materials, since some, as is the case with reinforced concrete, were innovative materials but
sometimes under extreme conditions performed worse than traditional ones such as wood.
Tectonically significant was the iron skeleton, “ossiferous”, as Frampton  names it, of
Labrouste’s Bibliothèque de Ste.-Geneviève, with its masonry and lightweight armature, to be
continued by the theoretician of tectonics Viollet-le-Duc and by the reinforced concrete pioneer
Auguste Perret. Finally Frampton quotes passages of Viollet-le-Duc’s work, referring to the “truth”
of the building in the material: “construction is the means, architecture is the result” , with which
we come back to Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art”  and the truth and to today’s
approaches to conservation and authenticity (ex. the Nara document )“. In 1890, some seventeen
years before Francois Hennebique’s decisive reinforced concrete patents of 1907, the engineer Paul
Cottancin perfected his own reinforced masonry system known as ’ciment armé’ .
Cottancin’spatent becomes obsolete in 1914; it required permanent brick formwork, instead of
Hennebique’s temporary timber framework, another connection between reinforced concrete and
timber as materials. In Cottancin’s system wire reinforcement acted in tension and cement infill in
compression independently, thus avoiding a weakness persisting till today in the adherence between
metal and concrete. The first history of architecture to explain “the origin of the tectonic form in terms
of the materials available, the structural systems employed, and the state of craft production” 
was by Choisy, an engineer . Although Le Corbusier in “Vers une Architecture”  was inspired
by Choisy’s isometric drawings, these represented better load bearing structure than skeletons, such
as, for example, timber framework. Frampton deems Auguste Perret to be Choisy’s follower, but he
also influenced the architects of the “machine age” from Le Corbusier to Louis Kahn. “Choisy seems
to have anticipated reinforced concrete as the sole technique that would prove capable of overcoming
the age-old schism and fusing into a single entity the two great lines of Western building culture”
 (which are timber construction and masonry).
In his discussion of the Germans, Frampton comes back to the duality of the ontological-
representational and its synonyms (ex. core form and artistic form) which we saw at the beginning.
For example, Schinkel’s “Das architektonische Lehrbuch” (the architectural manual)  “contains
many examples of differently articulated structural assemblies, rendered in different materials. In the
main, these sketches are ontological rather than representational in character, that is to say the
tectonic system itself is emphasized rather than the cladding of its form” , i.e., the core form
predominates over the art form. We might add to this that, in the 19th century, the perception of the
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artistic expression of illustrations, regarded today from a technical/engineering point of view, was
Unlike the architects of the early 20
century, who looked for the best expression for a given
material, Schinkel emphasized in this work the use of the best possible material for a given form, and
highlighted the quality of craftsmanship and how the materials are joined together. Frampton returns
to the analysis of Bötticher’s work and the examination of the ontological status of the structure and
representational status of the ornament : the representational is assimilated to the Greek and the
ontological to the Gothic. On a personal note, the Greeks translated timber, which is suitable for the
skeleton, into masonry, while in Gothic architecture the skeleton structure was built of masonry. A
philosophical influence on Bötticher comes from Schopenhauer: “architecture could only express its
essential form and significance through the dramatic interaction of support (pillar) and load” ,
arguing thus for sincerity in architecture (“beauty was [...] the explanation of mechanical concepts”
). Not only should the core form, a mechanical-statical necessity, be expressed as such, but the art
form, ornament, or cladding, should likewise be expressed as a separate part. This expression was
reflected in the Secession architecture of Otto Wagner, and those influenced by his language, for
example the architect from Oradea József Vágo (Figure 4). Bötticher argues for new materials, in this
case iron, saying that stone had reached its apogee in the Gothic period, and that iron would be more
suitable to cover large openings. A new material brings “in its train a new world of art-forms” .
The author sees that “the tectonic expressivity of such an unprecedented system will have to model
its representational form on some kind of reinterpretation of the principles of Hellenic architecture.
[...] anticipates the semiotic transformations of Jugendstil in its crystallizing phase, particularly [...]
Otto Wagner” (The principles of the Hellenic and Germanic way of building ). In the
Stoffwechsel-theory Semper  observes the transformation through mythical, originally tensile
construction into petrified compressive forms (the Greeks’ timber in stone). The nomadic textile
forms were transformed into a permanent material when bricks became “dressing”, which we can
see also in connection with Deleuze’s smooth and striated space , when distinguishing between
nomad and sedentary. Otto Wagner pushed Semper’s theory further: “a new style must depend of
necessity on a new means of construction” . Wagner was, according to Frampton, the heir of
Schinkel, Bötticher and Semper. “New purposes must give birth to new methods of construction and
by this reasoning also to new forms” , so a new Kunstform derives from a new “Werkform, as
inorganically articulated structural invention” . He applied Semper’s theory of dressing with the
tiles and nails on the Postsparkasse.
Figure 4. Otto Wagner’s influence: (a) Postsparkasse, Vienna, architect Otto Wagner 1904–1906;
(photo: M. Bostenaru, 2005); (b) Arkaden-bazár, Budapest, architect József Vágo, 1909; (photo: M.
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The chapters which follow in  are dedicated to the analysis of tectonics in the work of several
architects: Frank Lloyd Wright (8 June 1867, Richland Center–9 April 1959, Phoenix) where he
identifies the so-called “text-tile” tectonic, the reinforced concrete pioneer Auguste Perret (12
February 1874, Ixelles, Belgium–25 February 1954, Paris) (Figure 5) and his contemporary Henri
Sauvage (10 May 1873, Rouen–21 March 1932, Paris) and so-called “classical Rationalism”, Mies van
der Rohe (27 March 1886, Aachen–17 August 1969, Chicago) and the Avant Garde, Louis Kahn (20
February/5 March 1901, Kuressaare, Estonia, Russian Kingdom–17 March 1974, New York) vis à vis
Modernism, JørnUtzon (9 April 1918, Copenhagen–29 November 2008, Helsingør) and the tectonic
metaphor in trans-cultural form, and finally the joints designed by Carlo Scarpa (2 June 1906, Venice–
28 November 1978, Sendai, Japan) in the late 20th century. The work of Carlo Scarpa and the
interpretation in  is also touched thus in .
Figure 5. Ear ly use of reinforced concrete with Art Nouveau reminiscences in Paris: (a) Block of flats
on Rue Franklin, architect Auguste Perret (1902–1904). (b) Block of flats on Rue Vavin 26, architect
Henri Sauvage (photos: M. Bostenaru, 2010).
In Italy (Torino, Mina ), Belgium (Henri van de Velde ), and Hungary (István
Medgyaszay ), practicing architects were seeking a language for reinforced concrete. Erich
Mendelsohn reflected on the use of concrete in the Einstein tower in Potsdam, Germany, to the
language developed for concrete by Henri van de Velde, as is evident in his letters . The Einstein
tower (Figure 3a) is considered to express concrete in an appropriate shape, but it was mainly made
of brick and iron. This was also foreconomic reasons, iron being a widely used material in industrial
Germany during that time. This and the whole challenges of restoration are written in Huse .
Challenges of restoration included the thermal bridges of iron and concrete not being covered by
sufficient brickwork. A similar example of a dynamic form suitable for concrete is seen in Béla Lajta’s
block of flats on Népszinház street (Figure 6b), which is classified by Ákos Moravánszky as neither
belonging to the Secession nor to the National Romantic style, but to “the new language of reinforced
concrete” . However, a visit on site reveals the same structure as in the case of the Einstein Tower.
Lajta seems to have turned to reinforced concrete with the Rózsavölgyi house, as we will later see.
Van de Velde saw a connection between the shape to be used for concrete and that used for timber,
and this view was not unique. The opinion was shared by the Hungarian István Medgyaszay, who
was a student of Otto Wagner, and expressed his views both theoretically  in a lecture in Vienna
and practically, in the concept of the theatre in Veszprém, Hungary. In his seminal book on tectonics,
Kenneth Frampton  gives an exhaustive explanation on how reinforced concrete should be
included among tensile materials such as timber, and their petrified versions inherited from the
Greeks, which is the load bearing masonry, and which acts in compression. The simple differentiation
in skeleton structure and load bearing masonry is not enough, since skeleton structures were made
out of stone during the Gothic period.
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Figure 6. The shape of reinforced concrete. (a) ’Einstein Tower’, architect Erich Mendelsohn (1919–
1921) (photo: M. Kauffmann, 2002), (b) Block of flats on Népszinház street, Budapest, architect Béla
Lajta (1911) (photo: M. Bostenaru, 2006).
3. PracticeFollowing the Essays
Some works by István Medgyaszay (23 August 1877 in Budapest, then Austria-Hungary–29
April 1959 in Budapest, Hungary) in Veszprém and Balatonalmádi, both in Hungary, as well as some
projects published 1902 and 1903 in ’Der Architekt’, in Vienna, before graduation, will be presented
to see the connections between theory and practice. István Medgyaszay was a student of Otto Wagner
(13 July 1841 in Penzing by Vienna–11 April 1918 in Vienna) at the master school ’Spezialschule für
moderne Architektur’ (Special school for modern architecture).Gotfried Semper (29 November 1803
in Hamburg, Germany–15 May 1879 in Rome, Italy) separates out the construction according to the
principle of the primitive hut. The floor, wall and ceiling typology generated Loos’ ’Raumplan’ (Adolf
Loos 10 December 1870 in Brno, then Austria-Hungary, today Czech Republic–23 August 1933 in
Kalksburg by Vienna, Austria), but in the search for a technically advanced and artistically
convincing style for reinforced concrete Wagner’s student István Medgyaszay went the furthest. He
worked with Hennebique (25 April 1842 in Neuville-Saint-Vaast–20 March 1921 in Paris) in Paris
(1907), but his architecture does not show the French influence and is fundamentally different from
Auguste Perret’s (12 February 1874 in Ixelles, Belgium–25 February 1954 in Paris) ’Theatre of the
Champs Elysees’ in Paris (1913) (Figure 7), the later taken over from Henri van de Velde the theory
of whom was introduced above. In the lecture “on the artistic solution of reinforced concrete
construction” , Medgyaszay expressed his thoughts about the separation between design and
space limitation. The structural elements of the building should be designed in accordance with this
application. Thus, Medgyaszay emphasized the flat character of the horizontal separating building
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Figure 7. ’Theatre of the Champs Elysees’ (Paris, 1913) architect Auguste Perret (photo: M.Bostenaru,
The effort to explore the specific mechanical characteristics (resistance) of the new material ferro-
concrete in order to characterize and to find an artistic expression in the shape language for reinforced
concrete is important for architectural history. Medgyaszay also sees the artistic relationship of
reinforced concrete with timber. The new and important aspects of the theater in Veszprém, Hungary
(1908) were also formulated in the lecture. Medgyaszay was no stranger to the national style, but here
his design transcends the Oriental character of the extremely logical and honest construction,
reflecting his view of the artistic element: the problems of the time were more important than the
creation of an architectural style.
The Theatre in Veszprém (Figure 8a) is a multi-purpose hall for a small town. It is situated in the
former Bishop’s garden, which is considerably lower than the adjacent road. The auditorium
measures 20×16sqm , is sloping and balanced, being suitable for transformation.
Figure 8. Architecture of IstvánMedgyaszay (a) Theatre, Veszprém (1908) (Photo: M. Bostenaru, 2006),
(b) Reinforced concrete perforated details at the LackóDezső Museum, Veszprém (1912), (c) Church
in Balatonalmádi (1930) (photos: M. Bostenaru, 2011).
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The theater space is covered by a double-shell construction. The inner shell of the auditorium
consists of reinforced concrete decorative grilles for air heating and is hung on a very thin barrel-
shaped reinforced concrete structure between T sections of iron. The building was ‘air-conditioned’
with heating and thus the windows cannot be opened. The window construction consists of
reinforced concrete bars with glued glass windows, a patented solution.
The almost brutal-looking ceiling in the foyer is made of precast reinforced concrete, featuring
concrete lattice-work, and decorative concrete structures with a bonded glass window determine the
formal look of a cast concrete house, in a different manner from Mendelsohn’s ‘Einstein’ tower in
Potsdam, Germany (1919–1921) and from Lajta’s building in Budapest (1911).
Perforated reinforced concrete surfaces are typical of Medgyaszay’s approach to the material,
and can also be seen in the Laczkó Dezső museum building in the same city (Figure8b), which is,
however, less innovative. As highlighted in the lecture, this might derive from the timber approach,
as we see in the church in Balatonalmádi (1930) (Figure 8c). However, solutions were found for
reinforced concrete, and we may see projects which are suitable for the new material from the period
he spent studying in Vienna, as published in ’Der Architekt’ [41,42].
4. The Spread of the Hennebique’System
As well as considering the efforts made to examine the philosophy of the material, it is worth
studying how it was actually used technically. In the patented drawing on the Hennebique system a
network of primary and secondary reinforced concrete beams and joists is visible. This is a
characteristic which was not kept in later reinforced concrete skeleton constructions, where the
hierarchy of primary and secondary was often mixed. The German language differentiates between
this early reinforced concrete and the later version, calling the first iron-concrete (’Eisenbeton’) and
the later steel- concrete (’Stahlbeton’), while in English for this early version also ferro-concrete is
used. In Hungarian however ’vasbeton’ is used for both. In Romanian, Italian, and French, the
material is called in a similar way to ‘reinforced concrete’, not differentiating between the kind of
Hennebique’s headquarters were in Brussels, and from there the system spread through offices
and contractors throughout Europe and beyond. Table 1 and Figure 9 show the location of the
examples of the spread considered in this paper.
Table 1. Studies considered.
Name of Work
Italy Palazzo della Borsa Genoa Restored
Grand Hotel Miramare Genoa Restored
Porto Antico Genoa Restored + extension
Via XX Settembre Genoa Preserved as is
Preserved as is
Silos Genoa Call for tender
Ponte del Risorgimento Rome Preserved as is
Lingotto Torino Restored + extension
Ponte Corso Italia
Need for restoration
Romania Bulevardul Magheru Bucharest Red dot policy calling for
Athenée Palace Bucharest Transformed more times
Block of flats on Frumoasă
street Bucharest Preserved as is
Water tower at Medicine
faculty Bucharest Demolished
Water tower on Știrbey
Bucharest Preserved as is
Cernavodă Bridge Cernavodă Closed
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Different suggestions for
Casino Constanța Call for tender
Mosque Carol I Constanța Preserved as is
Preserved as are
Silos Brăila Preserved as are
Water tower Brăila Restored
Moskovits Miksa Palace Oradea Restored
Water tower at CFR
locomotive depot Timișoara
Neglected, unlike other ones in
the same city
Hungary Arkaden-Basar Budapest Restored
Building on Népszinház
street Budapest Neglected
Rózsavölgyi house Budapest Preserved as is
Water tower on Margaret
island Budapest Restored
Water tower on Svábhegy
Preserved as is
Petőfi theatre Veszprém
Restored 1984–1988, functional
adaptation keeping main
Laczkó Dezső museum
Restored in the 1980s
Szent Imre church Balatonalmádi Preserved as is
Water tower Siófok Restored
Reők palace Szeged Restored
Austria Loos house Vienna Preserved as is
Church of Holy Spirit Vienna Preserved as is
Postsparkasse Vienna Restored
Portugal Luis Bandeira Bridge Rio Vouga Submerged to a dam
Water tower Barreiro Call for tender
Water tower, Penha de
Franca Lisbon Preserved as is
Faculty of Medicine,
University of Lisbon Lisbon Preserved as is
Latvia Water tower of Agenskalns Riga Preserved as is
Water tower Čiekurkalns
Preserved as is
Germany Bürgerparkviertel Darmstadt New development in historic site
Einsteinturm Potsdam Restored
ZKM Karlsruhe Restored + extension
Restored + extension
Egypt Baron Palace Cairo Subject of investigation from
Israel Water tower Tel Aviv Restored
Block of flats Rue Franklin
Preserved as is
Théâtre des Champs-
Élysées Paris Restored
Block of flats Rue Vavin Paris Restored
near Paris Altered in time
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 12 of 27
Figure 9. Map of case studies mentioned in this paper. Full map here:
4.1. Early Reinforced Concrete in Italy
The discussion starts with Italy, as it was already mentioned in the introduction. In Italy the
representative of the Hennebique system was Giovanni Antonio Porcheddu (26 June 1860 Ittiri–17
October 1937 Turin), who was based in Turin and was active all over Italy, especially in the north
. The archive can be consulted on request . The FIAT Lingotto factory (1916–1923) (Figure 10)
by Giacomo Matté Trucco (30 January 1869 in Trivy–15 May 1934 in Turin) is one of the examples of
industrial architecture which gained importance, also on account of contemporary conversion (1983–
2002) by Renzo Piano (14 September 1937, Genoa) and because of its integration in the 2006 Winter
Olympic Games. However, it is Genoa where a boulevard was traced at the turn-of-the-century with
buildings constructed according to Hennebique’s new system, namely the Via XX Settembre (Figure
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 13 of 27
Figure 10. FIATLingotto factory, today Polytechnic of Turin, Italy. (a) reinforced concrete elements;(b)
additions in the conversion process. (photos: M. Bostenaru, 2018).
Figure 11. Via XX Settembre Genoa, Italy, incl. Mercato Orientale (on the left), a Hennebique type
intervention in Italy (photos: M. Bostenaru, 2012).
In Bucharest, a boulevard similar to Via XX Settembre in Genoa, featuring early reinforced
concrete constructions, but with a skeleton structure, unlike the Hennebique method, was completed
in the interwar period in the Modernist style (Figure 12). The buildings on this boulevard were
damaged in the 1940 and 1977 earthquakes, with partial and total collapse followed by the altering
and replacement of the damaged buildings, losing much of the initial unity, and retrofitting today
may further alter their appearance.
Figure 12. Magheru boulevard in Bucharest with the building which was the Modernist manifesto
(ARO—Asigurarea Românească—building by architect HoriaCreangă, from 1929). (photo: M.
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 14 of 27
The first example of early reinforced concrete in the Hennebique system in Bucharest,
Romania,is the Athenée Palace(1910–1912) (Figure 13). The initial architecture design was done by
the architect of French origin but born in Romania Daniel Renard (1871 in Dragomirești, Romania–
1936?) and the civil engineer George Constantinescu (4 October 1881, Craiova, Romania–11 December
1965, Coniston, UK), a student of Anghel Saligny (19 April 1854, Șerbănești–17 June 1925, Bucharest),
the renowned engineer of the Cernavodă bridge (1890–1895), the longest at the time in Europe.
Anghel Saligny also employed reinforced concrete in the silos of Brăila and Galați (1886) in the
Danube harbours, shortly after the Monier patent, and at the silos in Constanța (1899/1904–1909, in
the later years employing ’Holzcement’), on the seaside, the latter after the plans of architect Petre
Antonescu, with neoclassical architecture. The silos of Constanța are listed as monument in Romania
and were the first in pre-cast concrete. Anghel Saligny studied in Germany, where the patents of
Monier arrived 1884–1887 . The silos in Constanța were also subject of recent conservation
discussion, for which Irina Băncescu pursued some studies of intervention and conservation,
including also a view on contemporary silos and harbours, for example the Hafen City in Hamburg
by Possehl & Co., 1896, so at a close date but still in brick  which the author visited (Figure 14).The
silos in Constanța can be compared to the situation of the Hennebique silos (1901) in Genoa, where
engineers A. Carissimo, G. Crotti, and G. B. De Cristoforis, performed by Porcheddu in Art Deco
style. Since 2007, the silos in Genoa bear the label of “site of artistic interest” . In fact, both studies
on historic reinforced concrete on the Romanian seaside were performed in Italy and this highlights
the connection to case studies there (Figure 15). The silos of Genoa first were subject of some
graduation thesises at both at the University of Genoa and the Turin Politechnic. They are in state of
abandon since 1980s, and there is a call for tender to restore them. They are neighboring the Genoa
old harbor regenerated by Renzo Piano in 1988–2001, who also regenerated FIAT Lingotto. Daniel
Renard is also the creator of another representative Art Nouveau building on the territory of the Old
Kingdom of Romania: the Casino in Constanța (1909) (Figure 16) . The Casino is today in
advanced state of deterioration, but finally after intense discussions (it was included in the seven
most endangered by Europa Nostra in 2007 , steel and concrete corrosion in the few concrete
elements being identified as some of the issues) for this emblematic building 2019 restoration works
started. The engineer George Constantinescu also designed the structure for the first building in
reinforced concrete in Romania (reinforced concrete was used for the cupola and the minaret), the
Mosque in Constanța (1910–1913) (Figure 17), also with New-Romanian elements, architect Victor
Ștefănescu (14 March 1877–1950), designed after the model of the mosque in Konya, Turkey , and
for the Casino. The facade of the Athenée Palace in Bucharest, Romania, had already been changed
during the interwar period by a Modernist intervention related to the Italian Novecento style carried
out by the architect Duiliu Marcu (25 March 1885 in Calafat, Romania–9 March 1966, Bucharest), in
1937 . In addition, the Athenée Palace in Romania underwent a new restoration in the 21
aimed mainly at increasing its seismic performance, but also connected to its conversion into a Hilton
hotel. Another student of Anghel Saligny was the engineer Elie Radu (20 April 1853, Botoșani–10
October 1931), who designed bridges, roads, and railways as well as some water works, including
the water towers in Brăila (Figure 18) and Drobeta Turnu-Severin, both cities on the Danube. The
water tower in Brăila has been altered in the 1980s during Socialism, but after 2018 renovated with
European funds, like the one in Drobeta Turnu-Severin. Anghel Saligny himself designed the water
tower at Știrbey palace, a mid-19th century palace of a Walachian prince in Buftea, near Bucharest in
1920 in reinforced concrete. It was less important in the curriculum of Saligny and not detailed in
, but it is nevertheless listed as monument of national importance in Romania, while several water
towers are listed as local importance monuments.
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 15 of 27
Figure 13. Athenee Palace after the Modernist changes by architect Duiliu Marcu, Bucharest (photo:
M. Bostenaru, 2011).
Figure 14. HafenCity in Hamburg (photo: M. Bostenaru, 2012).
Figure 15. Industrial architecture in reinforced concrete: (a) Silos in Genova (1901) during restoration;
(b) old harbor with Renzo Piano addition. (photos: M. Bostenaru, 2012).
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 16 of 27
Figure 16. Casino in Constanța, Romania, architect Daniel Renard (1909) (photo: A. Bălăceanu).
Figure 17. Carol I Mosque in Constanța, Romania (1910–1913), architect Victor Ștefănescu (photo: A.
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 17 of 27
Figure 18. Water tower in Brăila, engineer Elie Radu (1912–1913) (photos: M. Bostearu, 2013).
On the territory of the Old Kingdom of Romania during the Art Nouveau period the ’New
Romanian’ style was the new style introduced at the turn-of-the-century. This was inspired by the
vernacular Romanian construction of the so-called “cula” (fortified housing in Muntenia) but also the
cult architecture of the Brâncovenesc style, as promoted by the Medieval Voivod Constantin
Brâncoveanu. It can be found in some monasteries or residences (Mogoşoaia), but was also
characteristic of some now-vanished monuments (the Vacăreşti monastery 1716–1736, demolished
1986 by the order of Nicolae Ceaușescu). Other Romanian architects such as Virginia Andreescu-
Haret , argued during Communism as the first female architect in the world, nevertheless the first
in Romania and the first in the world depending on criteria such as ’practicing after proper
graduation’, adhered to this style despite staying in Italy for a while for study, before turning to
modernism. An interesting aspect of Virginia Haret’s work is, however, the fact that the first block of
flats in reinforced concrete in Romania, situated on Frumoasă street corner to Calea Victoriei (1924–
1928) (Figure 19), has been attributed to her. This block of flats has a different style from both New-
Romanian and Modernism, and is referred to as eclectic , so there is a debate about who actually
created the building. Virginia Haret also planned industrial constructions in early reinforced
concrete, such as a water tower in the courtyard of the former Faculty of Medicine (1927), which had
New-Romanian architectural elements and was later demolished (Figure 20).
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 18 of 27
Figure 19. Block of flats on Frumoasă street 50–56 by Virginia Haret(1924–1928) ((a) photo and (b)
plan drawing of a module of two apartments, not the corner module: M. Bostenaru, 2011).
Figure 20. Water tower by Virginia Haret (Bucharest city archives).
In Transylvania, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and not of the Romanian Old
Kingdom, there are also examples of the Hennebique system, in Oradea (the Moskovits Miksa palace
from 1904–1905, in the Munich Secession style, the so-called Lilienstil, , Figure 21). The Secession
style shows close connections to Hungarian architecture. In the construction of the Moskovits Miksa
palace by Kálmán Rimánoczy jr. (1892–1912) precast iron concrete slabs, so-called Hennebique plates
 have been used for the first time in Oradea after the plans of Professor of engineering Szilárd
Zielinszky (1 May 1860 in Mátészalka, Austro-Hungary–24 April 1924 in Budapest, Hungary), a
pioneer of reinforced concrete in Hungary who worked in France at Gustave Eiffel and, after knowing
the Hennebique patents, lobbied for these in Hungary. The palace has been recently restored, after
an extensive 3D scanning campaign in 2016–2017.On the territory of Romania Zielinszky constructed
the railway water tower (Depoul CFR) in 1905 in Timișoara by the same contractors as the tower in
Szeged. In Timișoara there are two other twin water towers in Iosefin (1913–1914) and Fabric
neighborhoods. For the first, designed by Art Nouveau architect Lászlo Székely (3 August 1877 in
Nagyszalonta, Hungary–23 January 1934 in Timișoara, Romania), in 2019, a conversion program was
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 19 of 27
announced with a coffee shop and coffee museum. Víztorony  is a database of water towers on
the territory of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, which were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the
time they were built.
Figure 21. Moskovits Miksa Palace (1904–1905), architect Kálmán Rimánoczy Jr., Oradea before
restoration (photo: M. Bostenaru, 2009).
Unlike in the case of Italy, in Romania concrete did not spread wide as early as the Hennebique
system, but spread widely instead suddenly during the interwar period, the potential of the material
being insufficiently researched, especially given the earthquakes which occur here. Numerous
buildings on the Magheru Boulevard (Figure 12) collapsed, rendering the material vulnerable. Today,
how to retrofit them is being discussed and there is some state support for this.
Szilárd Zielinszky built a number of water towers in Hungary , the first one in Kőbánya in
1903, demolished in 1968. Some others have been refurbished, for example the one in Szeged (1904),
which has been also strengthened 2005–2006 avoiding corrosion, in frame of the rehabilitation of
the whole open place, and the one on Margaret Island in Budapest (1911) UNESCO monument,
architect Ray Rezső Vilmos, converted in an arts gallery since 2012. In both cases architects have been
involved in the refurbishment to make participative architecture out of concrete heritage. There is
one more water tower by Zielinszky on the Svábhegy in Budapest and other important ones in
Szolnok, Hungary, and in Beočin, Serbia . After the same technique as the tower on Margaret
island the water tower in Siófok was designed by Árpád Gút (1877 in Kéthely–24 May 1948 in Tel
Aviv) and Jenő Gergely in1912  (Figure 22). The tower was altered 1935, and then renovated in
the interior in 1998. In 2010–2012, the exterior was also renovated, now being a complete touristic
highlight in the Balaton lake area. Arpád Gút later built a notable (for his memories ) water tower
in Tel Aviv, Maze street (1924), with a menorah (a traditional Hanukah candelabrum) on the top
(during the Festival of Lights), after he emigratedin Israel in 1921. The water tower is still staying.
The water tower was renovated 2010–2016 .
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 20 of 27
Figure 22. Watertower in Szeged, Hungary (photo: M. Bostenaru, 2009, before exterior renovation).
Art Nouveau construction following the French legacy is also very rarely to be found in the
neighboring country of Hungary, to which Transylvania, now part of Romania, belonged that time,
the only notable building being the Palais Reők in Szeged (1907), by Ede Magyar (Figure 23) (31
January 1877 in Orosháza–5 May 1912 in Szeged, Austria-Hungary), which recently (2007) underwent
Figure 23. Palais Reők, Szeged (1907), architect Ede Magyar, before restoration (photo: M. Bostenaru,
It is debatable whether the architecture of the National Romantic style, as it is called in Hungary
and Latvia, is to be considered Art Nouveau, and whether the New-Romanian style belongs to this.
Reinforced concrete, in Hennebique system, is also documented in the archives on the works of
Béla Lajta (23 January 1873 in Óbuda, Austria-Hungary–12 October 1920 in Vienna, Austria) in
Budapest , the one mentioned with the Népszinház street building and its concrete language,
highlighting a composition with light weightthrough skeleton in the lower storeys and heavy load
bearing masonry in the upper storey, as with Loos’ architecture (Figure 24). This is an early example
of Art Deco at the time of Art Nouveau, which is to be found also in Bucharest in the Santa Elena
church of the Hungarian community. Also from Austria-Hungary (Slovenia), Jože Plečnik (23
January 1872 in Ljubljana, Austria-Hungary–7 January 1957 Ljubljana), built the first church in
reinforced concrete in Vienna (1910–1913), Austria (Figure 25), with its skeleton framework located
in the basement. This created a unique language which highlights the difference between a hall and
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 21 of 27
a storey-wise construction . However, in his hometown of Ljubljana, Plečnik preferred masonry to
Figure 24. (a)Loos house at Michaelerplatz, Vienna (photo: M. Bostenaru, 2006); (b) Rózsavölgyi
house, Budapest, architect Béla Lajta (photo: M. Bostenaru, 1997
Figure 25. Church of the Holy Spirit (1910–1913), Vienna, architect Jože Plečnik, (Photo: M. Bostenaru,
4.4. Portugal and Latvia
Also in Portugal, reinforced concrete was first employedin industrial architecture, where
Bernardo Joaquim Moreira de Sá (1879–1919), later with the company Moreira de Sá & Malevez
(MS&M), were Hennebique’s agents [60,61]. Reinforced concrete for the Medicine School in Lisbon
was tested 1898 by Paul Cottancin himself . Some notable constructions of them are bridges, of
which not all survived time being demolished in frame of further construction works on the rivers
(ex. a dam submerged the Luis Bandeira Bridge from 1906/1907, the oldest in concrete in use in
Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe until recently ). Other industrial buildings by
Hennebique’s agents in Portugal are water towers : the reservoirs in Lisbon Penha de Franca
district and Barreiro, both from 1907. Lisbon features a water museum on four historic sites which
have to do with water, but the tower is not part of this. In Barreiro, there was recently a call for artists
to reuse the tower.
Kratins and Tipane  list these industrial buildings as being part of its Art Nouveau
architectural heritage, for example the Water tower of Agenskalns, on Alises 4 (1910) by Wilhelm
Bockslaff (24. Oktober 1858 in Riga, Latvia–9. März 1945 in Posen), along with examples of National
Romantic, classified as such also by  along with the Ciekurkalns (1912–1913) water tower. Both
water towers functioned long and are still standing today.A discussion on opportunities of
conversion of water towers, especially in Romania, is given in . The contribution highlights that
few water towers are in reinforced concrete, like those in Portugal in Hennebique technique,
although, in this paper, the one by Virginia Haret, not kept in Bucharest, is documented in Figure 16.
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 22 of 27
Also, the water tower on Angenskalns is discussed in : the tower was raised and extended in 1937
and converted 1991–2010 for creative industries.
In his own house (1903, Bourg-la-Reine by Paris), Hennebique had used the volumetric shape of
industrial architecture, including a water tower , an architecture in which his system spread so
much. The villa is protected as monument, but it was renounced at some of the original functions,
such as the roof garden, while it is subdivided into more flats.
4.5. Britain and Germany
In Britain and Germany Hennebique’s representatives were Mouchel and Züblin respectively
. The first documented case of use of Hennebique’s system in Britain was Weaver’s mill in
Swansea in 1897, followed by industrial, co-operative, railway, and silo buildings, while framed
buildings in non-Hennebique’s system appeared after 1905 . Louis Gustave Mouchel (11 January
1852 in Cherbourg–27 May 1908 in Cherbourg, France) founded with the Hennebique licence 1897
the company in Briton Ferry in the UK, where he spent most of his adult life. The company Züblin
was founded by Swiss engineer and pioneer of iron concrete construction Eduard Züblin (11 March
1850 in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy–25 November 1916 in Zürich, Switzerland). The Technical
University of Vienna in a team lead by Vittoria Capresi analyzed an example of the application of the
Hennebique system, also using pre-cast elements made and imported from Belgium: the Baron Palace
in Cairo , where Hennebique constructed already in 1895 .
In frame of the COST action TD1406 some case studies in “Innovation in intelligent management
of heritage buildings” were studied by the author of this paper, including in Bucharest, Romania and
Karlsruhe, Germany. One of the case studies in Germany was the building of the ZKM (Centre for
Arts and Media), former munitions factory (1915–1918) now museum and arts university (Figure 26).
The building is listed as building of special importance according to the monument law. Philipp Jakob
Manz (2 December 1861 in Kohlberg–2 January 1936 in Stuttgart), an important architect of German
industrial architecture, including textile architecture, and also for water works , was the architect
of the initial industrial building. Manz used here for the first time a frame construction in Hennebique
technique . The industry hall is the only one remaining from a larger industry area. In the last
decades a new function was searched for it. The conversion took place 1993–1997 . Architects of
the reconstruction were the office Schweger and Partner. Parts were added like a cube for the
entrance. The windows were changed, the new cube is in steel, and the old building is reinforced
concrete in Hennebique system, one of the most advanced at its time. New stairs from timber and
steel were added in the interior, as well as passages over the atria. The building is very large and the
only one remaining from an industry areal and it was difficult to use the atria. The combination of a
museum and art school is very good.
Figure 26. ZKM museum and art university building in Karlsruhe (1915–1918, conversion 1993–1997),
Germany. (Photos: M. Bostenaru, 2016).
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 23 of 27
5. Discussion and Conclusions
Early reinforced concrete represents a stage in the development of a new material of importance
for the history of construction. To date, this has been insufficiently researched, as it is rare that the
history of architecture highlights the structure of a building. There is a need for research on this
aspect, in order to be able to select constructions worth preserving as innovative landmarks in the
structural system. This approach was called for at the f.i.b. (federation internationale du beton)
Congress in Naples in 2006. The International Congress on Construction History, at its 6th edition in
2018 bridged this gap following initiatives in the UK and US, while in Germany architecture history
chairs are often called “Baugeschichte” (construction history). The discipline of history of technology
has a slightly different focus also regarding construction, and issues such as architecture and
acoustics are touched, but not so much the relationship between structures and architecture as in the
triennial conference series “Structures and architecture” in Guimarães, Portugal, mentioned in .
In Portugal also restoration includes architecture and civil engineering aspects in an exemplary
In the meantime, the multidisciplinary approach between philosophy, architecture, and
technical sciences (including sciences related to materials such as civil engineering but also
chemistry) is important in order to fully assess the cultural significance one may attribute to material
authenticity. Materials can be technically assessed and also produced, but it is necessary to
understand their relationship to architectural shape, which is given by a philosophical view of the
theory of architecture. Notable, in this analysis on concrete, is the relationship to timber as the
architectural language had been developed, a relationship which is negated by today’s different
seismic performance of reinforced concrete and timber. Art Nouveau was one of the many styles
adopted by buildings with reinforced concrete structures. Others display Classical features, or were
industrial buildings. But, common to both the development of reinforced concrete and the birth of
Art Nouveau was the quest for a new style. Reinforced concrete called for a unique language across
geographies. Apart of the housing or public buildings which display a style, the material has been
used in numerous industrial buildings including water towers and also bridges. The house of
Hennebique featured a water tower, as a symbol of the combination of residential and industrial
architecture. For industrial buildings, with the economic shift today, challenges are different. For
example, water towers were an architectural program which was in function only for a short time. In
this case, in the decision of functional or material reuse, a new philosophy of the material, looking to
the past, needs to be elaborated. Keeping the original material also contributes to the authenticity of
the site, as architectural charters call for. In this sense, self-healing, as recently researched, is a
promising technique for reinforced concrete as for natural materials such as stone.
When reinforced concrete was introduced, it was considered a material to last forever. It
generated great enthusiasm through the plastic capacity to fill any shape and through the ability to
be industrially employed in large scale. This is shown also by the provided either industrial examples
and/or with shapes expressing the philosophy behind the material. The search for a new language in
architecture was combined with the search for a new language for the material. For this reason, it was
employed at larger and larger scale. With time, durability proved much different. First only about a
century displayed age alteration, second, where it was subjected to earthquakes, conflicts aroused
between the flexibility it allowed in the floor plan and the necessities to resist horizontal loads. The
plastic possibilities proved in contradiction with sustainability. Hence, today discussions on
sustainability of concrete are different. Looking to the economic considerations of reuse against new
construction is exceeding the frame of this paper, but thoughts are addressed today to economics of
conservation, for example in the ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) ISCEC
(ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Economics of Conservation) international scientific
committee. Since many of these constructions are listed as monuments also because of their creative
use of an early technology, furthering the impulses at the mentioned f.i.b. conference could be done
in this direction. Reuse attempts shall consider the cultural, architectural, environmental value of the
buildings in their surroundings, not just in case the building is listed as a monument, as in the
European Charter of the Architectural Heritage from 1975, the European Architectural Year. Reuse is
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 24 of 27
also reducing the energetic footprint which new constructions would generate. The examples
provided in this paper show different creative ways of reuse for industrial and non-industrial
buildings, including functional conversion, extension or replacement of parts related to functional
conversion, or monument adequate restoration. In a few cases demolition could not be avoided, but
some example reused the material through recycling. In the case of industrial buildings, such as silos,
factories, and water towers, an additional challenge is given by the change of function compared to
the time when they were built, and conversion to functions related to creative industries is done today
in some cases. In the case of inner-city buildings instead, restoration of primarily the facades was
done, accompanied sometimes by a change of functions as in Genoa. The tendencies are similar across
Europe, in Eastern as in Western Europe already, which show lessons learned today 30 years after
the fall of the Iron Curtain and return to the integration as at the time when these buildings were
done and the architects travelled across Europe to learn the newest technologies from Paris and from
Hennebique. The lessons reached countries neighboring Europe. The issue of local materials
considered in today’s sustainability studies is colliding in the case of reinforced concrete, exactly with
the philosophy of the material at the beginning of its employment, namely in international
employment across countries and styles in Europe and beyond. The spirit of the time, at that moment,
of enthusiasm of the industrial revolution was looking for new materials such as steel/iron, glass, and
concrete. Today, we shall return at a mix of tradition and innovation which had early expressions at
some of the architects of the time, who included local materials such as timber and stone in the
language of Modernism in Romania (villas in Bucharest but mainly in Baltchik, Bulgaria by Henrietta
Delavrancea-Gibory, a contemporary of Virginia Haret in Romania, but in a different style) or in
Estonia (limestone Art Nouveau for example in central Tallinn, Estonia, another Baltic country, on
Pikk street by Jaques Rosenbaum around 1909). This mix of tradition and innovation can be followed
also in interventions on existing buildings, as the architecture of Carlo Scarpa in Veneto in Italy, in
the attention to detail taught already at the end of the 20
century. The layering showing the material
is an example on how it can be dealt with its authenticity following monument protection documents
and is also a proof of respecting tectonic such as in the philosophy of the material concrete. There is
plenty of inspiration in local architecture as a solution for these global challenges.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Acknowledgments: This work is based on a presentation held at the Art Nouveau Historical Lab 3 “Nature,
Creativity and Production at the Time of Art Nouveau” held on the 19th of November 2011 in Milan by the
Reseau Art Nouveau Network within the European project “Art Nouveau and Ecology”. The Romanian version
before revision has been included in the doctorate and some insights regarding early reinforced concrete (not
just in Hennebique system) are thus given in Bostenaru Dan, Maria, Dill, Alex and Gociman, Cristina Olga (2015)
Digital architecture history of the first half of the 20th century in Europe, Editura Universitară “Ion Mincu”,
Bucharest, available in the ICOMOS open archive. The author is grateful for the comments of three anonymous
reviewers and of the academic editor which helped improving the paper a lot.
Conflicts of Interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.
Sustainability 2020, 12, 5925 25 of 27
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