Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright

"Wright was enchanted by the seamlessness that concrete offered, describing the building as 'the quiet unbroken wave.' 'Here for the first,' he wrote, 'architecture appears plastic, one floor flowing into another … instead of the usual … layers cutting and butting into each other.'"

Los Manantiales Restaurant, Mexico City, 1958, Félix Candela

"Preferring form to mass, Candela used four thin hyperbolic parabolas to strengthen the combined wall and ceiling of the building."

TWA Flight Center, New York, 1962, Eero Saarinen

"Briefed to 'capture the spirit of flight,' Saarinen created a building of such futuristic virtuosity that it still looks modern 50 years on. … Reinforced concrete embeds a grid of steel rods. In a slab this is a bit like oversized chicken wire and enables gentle rolling curves like those seen here."

Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK, 2009, Caruso St. John

"The fluted facades of this art centre feature lace impressions set in precast concrete, referencing Nottingham’s nineteenth-century lace industry."

Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1924, Frank Lloyd Wright

"'The concrete block? The cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world,' wrote Frank Lloyd Wright regarding the precast elements he used for a series of private houses in Los Angeles. 'Why not see what could be done with that gutter rat? It might be permanent, noble, beautiful. It would be cheap.'"

Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza, Spain, 2008, Zaha Hadid

"Four intersecting but distinct pods make up this curving pavilion and footbridge, which also acted as the entrance to the Zaragoza International Expo. 29,000 fibre-reinforced concrete panels in different shades create a complex 'shark-skin’ pattern."

National Congress of Brazil, Brasilia, 1960, Oscar Niemeyer

"Four intersecting but distinct pods make up this curving pavilion and footbridge, which also acted as the entrance to the Zaragoza International Expo. 29,000 fibre-reinforced concrete panels in different shades create a complex 'shark-skin’ pattern."

National Congress of Brazil, Brasilia, 1960, Oscar Niemeyer

"This billowing roof sits, in the words of the architect, 'floating above the site like slowly drifting clouds.' Its gentle, calming undulations give the building a subtle presence, entirely appropriate to its role as a crematorium."

National Congress of Brazil, Brasilia, 1960, Oscar Niemeyer

"One of the most highly regarded scientific research centres in the world, the Salk Institute sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Founder Jonas Salk aimed to create an environment that would entice the best researchers from around the world. Kahn helped him to choose the site and created something approaching a secular monastery for science."

Church of the Light, Ibaraki, Japan, 1989, Tadao Ando

"A cut cross meets the ceiling, floor and walls of this small residential church with memorable flair. Ando failed to persuade the client that no glass was necessary in the cross itself. Twenty years later he told a lecture hall 'one day I will remove that glass … an architect must never, never, never give up.'"

Church of the Light, Ibaraki, Japan, 1989, Tadao Ando

Buy the book for $30 here

Co.Design

10 Masterpiece Buildings That Turn Concrete Into Poetry

The material may commonly be associated with drab, rain-stained affordable housing. But, as a new book from Phaidon proves, concrete can sing.

Virtually all of the masterpieces of modern architecture have one thing in common: They’re constructed, at least in part, of concrete. Popularly maligned as the stuff of ugly, depressing housing blocks or cold industrial buildings, the material has also enabled the best designers to create the most breathtaking structures of the last century, from Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia and Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light.

Those and many other Modernist landmarks are represented in Concrete, a new book from Phaidon thoughtfully and comprehensively compiled by William Hall to showcase the noble material’s breadth of form, texture, and purpose. Say what you will about Brutalists’ hulking monolithic masses, but even they occasionally employed concrete to, in Leonard Koren’s words, "create three-dimensional poetry." Louis Kahn’s much-celebrated Salk Institute for Biological Studies, whose buildings frame an extended vista of San Diego, is such an example.

As Koren writes in the accompanying essay, "Concrete is a noble material. Its development is one of humankind’s greatest achievements. It might not be up there with the discovery of fire on demand, but it is greater than the invention of plywood, perhaps even on a par with the advent of steelmaking." And it’s got a considerable advantage over wood: It’s fireproof.

Buy the book for $30 here.

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