Aerial shot of the Baha'i Indian 'Lotus' temple

November-December 2012 Volume 100, Number 6

An aerial top view of the Bahá’í House of Worship in New Delhi shows why the building is nicknamed the Lotus Temple. Each of the petals making up the walls of the structure are made from concrete cast in place over steel forms (the outer walls were then clad in marble). Such grand structures showcase the versatility and ubiquity of concrete as a building material. But concrete’s uses remain limited by its brittleness. As Victor C. Li describes in “Can Concrete Be Bendable?” (pages 484–493), new formulations of concrete have the ability to redistribute stresses instead of fracturing, allowing them some give. (Cover photograph by Nicolas Chorier.)