10 Works of Architecture That Reveal the Acrobatic Wonders of Concrete

By Kate Reggev
The twists, turns, and cantilevers of these residences and public structures are due to the gravity-defying abilities of concrete.

Concrete may be one of the most widely used, man-made construction materials today, but its soaring, acrobatic qualities (first put into large-scale use by the ancient Romans) had been forgotten for hundreds of years before it was redeveloped in the mid-18th century. 

However, it wasn’t until the postwar period that concrete really got its boost, thanks to the development of concrete that was reinforced with steel bars (rebar), along with a cultural sense of optimism that architecturally manifested itself in cantilevering, gravity-defying shapes and forms. All around the world—from the United States to Brazil, Mexico, and Bangladesh—everyone was enthralled with the wonders of concrete. 

Today, concrete continues to be used in an impressively broad range of spaces and scales, from countertops to massive infrastructure projects. Here, we take a look at some impressive contemporary structural and architectural feats accomplished with concrete, ranging from the soaring highways of Los Angeles to an Italian architect's cantilevered kitchen counters. 

Leaf-Inspired House by Yrjö Kukkapuro

A 1968 house by Finnish architect Yrjö Kukkapuro embodies the optimism of the postwar period with its sweeping, leaf-inspired concrete roof that appears to float over the glass house below.

A 1968 house by Finnish architect Yrjö Kukkapuro embodies the optimism of the postwar period with its sweeping, leaf-inspired concrete roof that appears to float over the glass house below.

National Assembly Building by Louis Kahn

The National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was designed in 1962 by the famous American architect Louis Kahn, who was known for using concrete to create unique, bold forms that would have otherwise been impossible to construct.

The National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was designed in 1962 by the famous American architect Louis Kahn, who was known for using concrete to create unique, bold forms that would have otherwise been impossible to construct.

El Blok, a 22-room hotel in Vieques, Puerto Rico, strikes a unique profile. Its meandering shape features numerous cut-outs that let light in, casting playful shadows. The LEED Gold-certified property, designed by San Juan-based firm Fuster + Architects, shows the texture of the plywood boards that were used to create the building's framework.

El Blok, a 22-room hotel in Vieques, Puerto Rico, strikes a unique profile. Its meandering shape features numerous cut-outs that let light in, casting playful shadows. The LEED Gold-certified property, designed by San Juan-based firm Fuster + Architects, shows the texture of the plywood boards that were used to create the building's framework.

Known for his futuristic concrete designs that seem to outwit gravity throughout Brazil, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer described his Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro as "a flower that rises from the rock." The organic, saucer-like structure uses concrete to form everything from the main building and its snaking walkway to the benches outside.

Known for his futuristic concrete designs that seem to outwit gravity throughout Brazil, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer described his Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro as "a flower that rises from the rock." The organic, saucer-like structure uses concrete to form everything from the main building and its snaking walkway to the benches outside.