Material Spotlight: 10 Killer Concrete Homes

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With a history dating back as far as the Roman Empire, concrete sometimes conjures up stark images of Brutalist structures from a bygone era. However, concrete homes have come a long way from a purely functional past.

Explore the following dwellings that revel in their use of this tough building material.

Belgian Concrete Country Villa 

When searching for a home for her family, Belgian fashion retailer Nathalie Vandemoortele stumbled across this fortress-like house located in the Belgian countryside. Originally built in 1972 by architects Johan Raman and Fritz Schaffrath, the concrete structure  had good bones that stood the test of time—but it was in need of interior updates.

Casa Serpiente

When a Lima-based couple acquired the husband’s childhood home, they turned the 1940s colonial residence into a guest quarters with offices downstairs. They envisioned building for themselves "something contemporary, surrounded by green, with lots of light and living spaces all on one floor." 51-1 Arquitectos constructed Casa Serpiente, which meanders through a grove of 25 trees in the former home's backyard area. 

South African Concrete Trio

"A lot of what I do is an attempt to use engineering materials in a domestic setting in a new, clever way," explained South African architect Gregory Katz about three 3,660-square-foot dwellings he built on over a third of an acre
in a leafy middle-class suburb of Johannesburg. The architect's ability to exploit concrete’s strength is visible in his own home—which is one of the three. The structure feels light and spacious, thanks to the absence of a single load-bearing wall.

Swiss Prefab

 It took the architect Felix Oesch's nine months to build this concrete prefab outside of Zurich. He used a prefabricated panel system developed by the German manufacturer Syspro, which is more commonly used for building cellars than entire houses. 

TKR in Tokyo 

TKR is a minimal home in Tokyo designed by Atelier Salt. The concrete structure is characterized by a large opening on the upper level that serves as an open balcony space. Additionally, the home is cantilevered to allow for covered parking on the ground floor.

Japanese Influence in Houston

A trip to Japan convinced the designer Christopher Robertson and his wife, Vivi Nguyen-Robertson—his partner at Robertson Design—to find a way to build the concrete house of their dreams. Inspired by Tadao Ando’s Benesse House Museum and the Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima, the Robertsons conceived their 2,900-square-foot house as an unfolding sequence of simple geometric forms: a low concrete wall, a concrete cube, and a box clad in Siberian larch.

The Orchard House 

When Naomi Hupert and Ben Kinmont moved their family from New York City to the California countryside, they couldn’t leave the city behind entirely—they wanted their new home to have that same Manhattan loft-like feel, even though it would be nestled in an apple grove in Sebastopol. Fortunately, Anderson Anderson Architecture was able to adapt the unified open living space of the loft into their new concrete prefab home.

Six Concrete Boxes 

An attentive sensitivity to site played into nearly every aspect of this modernist home on Martha's Vineyard. Architect Peter Rose collaborated with landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, who worked to craft and maintain the wild, organic feel of the environs. Will Parry, a local builder, custom-fabricated all of the sustainably harvested Spanish cedar-and-glass windows and skylights throughout. 

A Concrete Box in Rural Belguim

Influenced by the rural Belgian countryside that surrounds it, this single family concrete home by TOOP architectuur was designed to ensure that the inhabitants have a view of nature from every angle. The choice of building materials was also influenced by the colors of the rural landscape including gray wood, patterned concrete, and dark, anodized windows.

Concrete Double Villa 

Basel-based architect Silvia Gmür’s concrete villa on Lake Maggiore, Switzerland, is a remarkable platform from which to marvel at the spectacular Swiss Alps. With two separate homes on each floor, the concrete box design is punctuated by a pair of inverted pyramids—no doubt an homage to the surrounding mountain peaks.     

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