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The World's Best Concrete Architecture

The World's Best Concrete Architecture

Taiwanese designers Sean Yu and Yiting Cheng of 22 Design Studio are nothing if not concrete aficionados.  The macro applications of the materials from which their city is built are a feat of both patience and physics.

Inspired by Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s cast in-place architecture, these Taipei based designers push high density concrete to its limits, repurposing it into utilitarian, handmade tools, jewellery and watches.

To celebrate the launch of 22 Design Studio’s Fourth Dimension watch collection, we’ve compiled a gallery of the world’s best concrete architecture. Canvassing galleries, research centres and places of worship from Mexico to Marseille, these are our favourites. 

1. Auditorio de Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Santiago Calatrava Valls 

Despite being all but hidden in the Canary Islands, Santiago Calatrava Vall’s auditorium is championed as one of the finest examples of modern Spanish architecture.  The building’s arc is the only large architectural arch to be supported by two points, its tip pointing toward the Atlantic in a feat that seems to defy gravity.

2. MuCEM, Marseille – Rudy Ricciotti

Ricciotti’s museum in Marseille employs a classic Latin plan (72 metres per side) and is located on the site of a former pier.  Its lacey skeleton is made from a new French concrete and perfectly captures its architect’s sentiments about the building’s design: ‘I undertook the MuCEM in a state of anxiety. I wasn’t worried about losing [the design competition], I was afraid of winning with a scheme that would be a mistake. I designed it with fear in my guts, under the pressure of that metaphysical horizon that is the Mediterranean, of that cobalt blue that becomes Klein blue then ultramarine, that drives you mad after a while and turns silver when the wind gets up.”

3. Niigata City Konan Ward Cultural Centre, Niigata – Chiaki Arai

Inconsistency is at the heart of Arai’s cultural centre in the heart of Niigata.  With movable sliding walls that can convert music rooms into exhibition spaces, the building is randomly punctuated with 7000 circles that have been designed to either diffuse or absorb sound, or let light in.

4. 21 Design Sight, Tokyo – Tadao Ando 

Japan’s Tadao Ando is the grandfather of concerete architecture and his brief for this building was to design a structure that would represent Japan.  His answer? A low rise structure that opens out on an extraordinary scale, whilst concealing a sunken triangular court.  The initial roof design called for one sheet of steel only, but evolved to become a series of plates to highlight Japanese designer Issey Miyake’s ‘A Piece of Cloth’ concept, wherein the relationship between two bodies and the space between them is explored. 

5. Roberto Garza Sada Centre for Arts, Architecture and Design, Monterrey – Tadao Ando

Among other things, this building has been designed for the teaching of architecture. Inspired by the rugged Mexican environment surrounding the University of Monterrey’s campus, Taodo Ando has created a gate-like structure with an enormous triangular opening shaped by the geometry that results from twisting the side of the structure in the manner of a  traditional Japanese tori – the arch framing the entrances of Shinto shrines. 

6. Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp, Ronchamp – Le Corbusier

Completed in 1954, this is extreme Le Corbusier in the heart of the French countryside.  Commissioned to replace the original chapel that was destroyed during World War II, Le Corbusier’s creation seems to emerge from the hill upon which it’s built, and has been described as the first Post-Modern building.

7. Sunset Chapel, Acapulco – BNKR Arquitectura

Raised five metres to take full advantage of its surrounding views, the Sunset Chapel has one purpose only: to mourn the passing of loved ones.  Solid, indestructible and somehow stoic, BNKR Arquitectura believed that concrete suited the purpose perfectly. This extraordinary mausoleum has been designed to look like ‘just another’ colossal boulder atop the mountain.

8.  The Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi, Venice - Tadao Ando

A curving concrete auditorium inside an 18th century Venetian palace could only be imagined by Tadao Ando.  Triangular skylights complement the lighting fixtures tucked behind suspended ceilings, creating a light-filled space for meetings, conferences and exhibitions, neighbouring the Palazzina Grassi Hotel – which was, incidentally, designed by Philippe Starck in 2010.


The Tadao Ando-inspired Fourth Dimension watch collection by 22 Design Studio is available now.