Concrete is a material that has allowed for constructions that boggle the mind and seem to defy the very nature of gravity itself. The very properties of moulding and malleability that make concrete the perfect medium for building houses, pavements and retaining walls also make it the paramount ingredient in making some of the most mindboggling sculptures the world has seen.
O Cristo Redentor.
Rio: if you can tear your eyes away from the balmy beaches and bronzed bodies for a moment you may cast your eye upon the cloud wreathed peak of Corcovado (The Hunchback) mountain. Reigning above the clouds, above the mountain and above all of Rio is the largest concrete Art Deco statue in the world: Christ The Redeemer.
Towering an impressive 39.6 metres from the base of the plinth to the top of His holy head Christ the Redeemer has graced the city of Rio since construction finished in 1931. Erecting the statue took six years and involved a two-part process of constructing the core from reinforced concrete and moving to cladding the statue with carved soap stone. The statue itself is 30 metres high and the plinth is 9.5 metres giving a total of 39.5 metres in height. The entire edifice weighs 635 tonnes and is the fifth largest statue of Christ in the world.
Some of you may know that this has been listed as one of the modern wonders of the world. This in essence was a popularity contest run by a Swiss company. The Brazilian government made voting for this selection free and subsidised the millions of Reals spent by passionate Brazilians intent on making Cristo Redentor world famous.
Is that Mother calling?
Packing up our virtual bags we shall depart the sunny shores of Brazil and find ourselves in chilly Volgograd, Russia. This historic site was at the very centre of the battle of Stalingrad, possibly the most horrific single battle in the history of mankind. Nearly six months of fighting between the Germans and Russians destroyed this industrial centre and killed at least 1.3 million people. In fact the city reverts to its previous name for six days every year to commemorate the pyrrhic victory in that horrendous battle. The battle was pivotal for the Russian forces and the bravery of the men who held out against overwhelming odds is in the realm of legend.
To commemorate this extraordinary sacrifice the largest statue in the world (at that time) was commissioned and erected from prestressed concrete and steel cable. This enormous effigy towers a total of 87 metres and is formed from 7,900 tonnes of concrete. The body of the statue is 52 metres tall whilst the sword arm extends a further 33 metres into the air. An extraordinary feat of construction was to specifically prestress the concrete to cast the sword and outstretched arm. This construction would have been impossible to complete in any other medium than concrete. The ability pre-mould concrete and embed steel supports make concrete the most flexible of construction materials.