Concrete Elegance: Attention to detail

Presented on Tuesday 20 November 2018

This lecture featured beautiful examples of concrete architecture from practices well versed in the design of concrete. While very different in scale, location and appearance, the buildings exhibit a deep understanding of the nature of the material, the possibilities it offers for creativity and structure and great attention to the detail. 

Royal College of Pathologists - Hannah Fothergill & Rob Bearyman, Bennetts Associates Architects with Barry Dobbins, Waterman Group, Structural Engineers

The new London headquarters for the Royal College of Pathologists is a flexible, environmentally efficient building.  Located in the rapidly-changing area of Aldgate on the city’s eastern fringes, this new seven-storey building contains major conference and meeting rooms, offices and overnight accommodation for members. It replaces an existing office block and represents the final phase in the College’s relocation from its former home in the West End. 

Internally, the many types of spaces are unified by the use of exposed cast in situ coffered concrete slabs throughout.  Careful consideration was given to the profile and detailing of the coffers, to marry aesthetic requirements and construction. With integrated lighting, they give a strong visual character to the virtually column-free floors, their thermal mass forming a key part of the building’s passive cooling strategy. The facades express the spaces that sit behind them with brick piers and deep-set windows and concrete string courses at each floor level.   Set-backs on first, third and fourth floors create connecting double and triple-height volumes inside the building and allow daylight to penetrate deep into the site. 

Inagawa Cemetery chapel and visitor centre - Tom Herre and Matt Ball, David Chipperfield Architects

Inagawa cemetery is located on a steep slope by a scenic mountain range, north of Osaka. It is laid out across terraces, surrounded by forest and bisected by a monumental flight of steps of red concrete along which a rill carries water, down its centre, towards a new chapel and visitor centre. 

The floors, walls and roof of the building are all formed as pure building elements and cast in-situ, using the same earth-like red coloured concrete. The internal floors and ground are honed and the walkway walls and soffits sandblasted to create texture – giving the overall structure a monolithic appearance. 

The building is formally arranged under a single, sloping roof plane, following the view line from the entrance up to the shrine. The rooms of the visitor centre open onto the central garden while the secluded chapel remains separate – An unadorned and quiet room with minimal heating and artificial lighting offers a non-denominational contemplative space, pure in its form.

The next Concrete Elegance event will be held on 19th March 2019.

Visit to book you spot as places fill up quickly.

Photo credits: ©Keiko Sasoka