Concrete tower blocks have become the bogeymen for all manner of ills – but what’s really behind it?

  • Hard living: what does concrete do to our bodies?

Sous les pavés, la plage!” exclaimed Parisian protesters in May 1968: “Under the paving stones, the beach!”

Cities, they believed, were drowning in concrete, suppressing the hedonistic spirit and revolutionary potential of the people who lived in them. Fifty years later, the inner-city borough of Hackney in east London is employing its own “postcode gardener”, Kate Poland, to encourage local residents to dig up concrete and stone and replace them with trees, climbing plants and flowers.

This week Guardian Cities investigates the shocking impact of concrete on the planet, to learn what we can do to bring about a less grey world.

Related: 'Concrete? It's communist': the rise and fall of the utopian socialist material

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26 March 2019