When you think of concrete, you probably think of practical applications, foundations and driveways. However, just because a structure is functional, it doesn’t mean it has to be dreary and boring! You won’t believe the intricacies of these incredible concrete structures! There are too many to name as concrete architecture has been used for hundreds of years, but here are 5 examples we think are interesting…

Falkirk Wheel, Scotland

The Falkirk Wheel was once thought to be an impossible idea to reconnect the Forth and Clyde and Union Canal between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The wheel is part of a reinforced concrete aqueduct and the structure is sometimes referred to as loosely designed around the ribcage of a whale. The system works by using a boat lift and channel of water to set the boats onto their new path.

falkirk wheel
Over 7000 cubic metres of concrete were used in the construction, 1000 tons of reinforced steel and 1200 tons of prefabricated steel. More than 1000 people helped in the construction and enough water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool runs between the drawers.
pantheon rome

Pantheon, Rome
Possibly c126 AD

The ancient Romans were pioneers and used concrete architecture to create many amazing buildings that have lasted hundreds or even thousands of years. Of course, the ancient Romans didn’t have access to reinforced concrete strengthened with steel, but they did use a form of concrete.

Many structures like the Pantheon in Rome, boasted those iconic columns, and the interior ceiling is so breath-taking that architects since then have struggled to match it. A beam of light illuminates from the middle of the roof and lets the sunlight bounce around the main room.

Los Manantiales Restaurant, Mexico City
Félix Candela, 1958

The Los Manantiales Restaurant roof gives a sense of lightness from the relatively thin curves that make up the structure. It was designed efficiently and provide show-stopping architectural innovation. The iconic arches are present all the way around, meeting in the middle above lucky diners. The arches and curves look kind of like a perfectly designed shell, with the concrete lips never touching the earth.

Restaurante Los Manantiales
This idea and the water surrounding the restaurant, presents the idea that the restaurant is floating, making the experience even more magical.

MuCEM, Marseille, France
Rudy Ricciotti, 2013

Built on an abandoned port, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations incorporates taking advantage of the amazing sea views with an artistic exoskeleton made from fiber-reinforced ultra-high-performance concrete! The inner museum is dappled with natural light and is a piece of art on its own. The upper layers provide visitors with the opportunity to sit down and observe the sweeping views of sun and sea. A concrete ramp connects the museum to the neighbouring Fort St-Jean.

A Variety of Concrete Dams

There is a huge number of spectacular dams worldwide that use reinforced concrete as their main building material. There are four main shapes, adapting for the strength and function needed. The arch dam is one of the most elegant and important engineering structures.

concrete dam

These are curved so that the arch faces the water which works because concrete is a very strong material when compressed or pushed, but not when it is stretched. Dams are hugely important in modern society because they store water that will be needed in the future and raise the level of water upstream when needed. They are also key in creating hydropower.