For many years, concrete has been used as a simple, effective and low cost surface for all sorts of areas ranging from car parks to driveways to commercial freight yards. However, the one factor you rarely hear being praised is its looks. Techniques to improve the aesthetic appeal of monolithic concrete pavements have been around since the fifties, notably in North America where concrete is possibly the most popular surfacing for patios, drives and 'yards', and in the southern hemisphere, particularly Australia. However, it is only since the mid 1980s that many of these techniques found their way to the North-west European paving market. Decorative concretes have been used to dramatic effect in new structural developments such as the Trafford Centre in Birmingham, UK, the Basilica of Yamoussoukro on the Ivory Coast and the new European Parliament building. Dramatic effects are not only achieved in large structures though. Coloured concrete is just as effectively used in architectural pavements, paving stones and internal flooring Undoubtedly, the most popular prettifying technique we see in the UK and Ireland and other western countries are Pattern Imprint, sometimes known as ËœStampedâ„¢?â„¢Imprinted' or 'Textured' concrete. From a sluggish start at the back end of the 1980s this technique has slowly but surely grown in popularity and now attracts a reasonable level of interest, in both the residential and the commercial markets. In recent years, refinements and developments of this technique have emerged and we now have stencilling techniques, high-strength textured overlays.