Concrete Structures Around the World
Strong, brash, modern – whatever you think of large-scale concrete architecture, we can agree the world would look very different without the use of this versatile material over the last 2000 years. This month, we are looking back over the greatest achievements in concrete building design, from antiquity to the 20th century.
Dedicated in 126 AD, the Pantheon in Rome translates from Greek to mean ‘temple of every god’. It is the best-preserved Roman building in the world, due to it being in continual use since its completion. The true marvel of the Pantheon is its coffered concrete dome. Made of lime, mortar and volcanic ash, roman concrete has impressive tensile strength, meaning it does not need reinforcement, and some kinds of Roman concrete can even set under water. The dome, or rotunda, in the Pantheon weighs a hefty 4,535 metric tons and is 6.4 metres thick at the base, tapering to 1.2 metres thick near the centre hole called ‘the oculus’.
Bear Run, Pennsylvania, USA
Fallingwater is the first building on our list to take advantage of reinforced concrete and is also the only building that was designed as a private residence. It is now a National Historic Landmark and is a museum open for tours. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family in 1939, Fallingwater’s beauty is matched by its technical brilliance. It is the first example of a concrete cantilevered house, meaning half the structure is not supported from below, which gives the home its gravity-defying appearance. The building’s overhanging structure rests above the creek of Bear Run, allowing the natural and the man made to blend seamlessly.
Charles De Gaulle Airport Terminal 1
Built in 1974, the Charles De Gaulle Airport Terminal 1 (CDG 1) was designed by French architect Paul Andreu and today sees an annual footfall of 80 million passengers pass through its reinforced concrete terminals. In the tradition of fanciful French style, Andreu based the shape of CGB 1 on an octopus, giving the circular central terminal eight separate legs made up of seven departure lounges and one exit/entry road network. A marvel of reinforced concrete design at the time, CDG 1 continues to wow travellers with its smooth, sleek lines and its vast central skylight, all made possible by reinforced concrete design.
Royal National Theatre of Great Britain
Completed in 1976, the National Theatre has hosted the finest theatre companies in the world every year for over 40 years. The concrete terraces and plateaus interlock to make a purely urban landscape, all formed with the clean lines of reinforced concrete. The theatre houses three separate auditoria, and the forecourt hosts many outdoor performances as well as outdoor dining and pedestrianised areas for recreation – and all right beside the river Thames.
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