Let’s Get Concrete: The Aesthetics of Legitimacy

Design informatics research seminars

Scholars emphasize the cognitive basis of legitimacy from language.  Less clear is the role of visual aesthetics when establishing the legitimacy of a market for a new material. This study examines the introduction and legitimacy of a new building material—reinforced concrete— from 1891 to 1939 in the U.S. Reinforced concrete, which is a combination of steel and stone, was first legitimated through analogies to stone and material mimicry of stone stone structures. Although these legitimacy tactics helped to establish concrete’s foothold in the building market, reinforced concrete was soon  criticized as inauthentic. For reinforced concrete to become a legitimate and widely adopted building material in the U.S., architects and engineers had to theorize and develop a new aesthetic that capitalized on its unique material properties.

Candace Jones is Chair of Global Creative Entreprise at the University of Edinburgh, and studies the development of markets, use of networks and new categories in creative industries.

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