© Nicolas Sedlatchek

Cast in Place: 12 Concrete Formworks That Make a Good Impression

Formwork gives space definition.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

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Not all materials have the greatest memory. Some forget what happened overnight, others remember for thousands of years. Construction shapes memory, revealing processes or ideas that may otherwise be hidden. As one of the most widely used materials today, concrete has inherent memory. Formed into any shape imaginable, concrete takes on the texture or characteristics of its material assembly. As a standard in modern construction, it’s often poured into temporary or permanent molds. Known as formwork, these “false” shells give concrete definition.

Demonstrating graceful building techniques and embodied memory, we’ve gathered up a collection of concrete projects made with diverse formworks. Giving an ubiquitous material form, the designs explore concrete’s haptic qualities. Durable, versatile and expressive, the projects are located across five continents with a variety of contexts and climates. Together, they begin to show how architects can subtly draw out spatial experiences and leave a mark.

© GRAHAM BABA ARCHITECTS

© GRAHAM BABA ARCHITECTS

© GRAHAM BABA ARCHITECTS

© GRAHAM BABA ARCHITECTS

Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse Bar by GRAHAM BABA ARCHITECTS, Yakima, Wash., United States

Built to help revitalize downtown Yakima, Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse Bar combines a board-formed, cast-in-place concrete structure with a timber-structured, glass-walled pavilion. The materiality of the project recalls the agricultural vernacular of its context through weathering materials and repurposed formwork for feature walls.

© Architecture Republic

© Architecture Republic

© Architecture Republic

© Architecture Republic

Formwork Studio by Architecture Republic, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland

Mediating two outdoor rooms, the studio space consists of a 16 foot by 16 foot room sunken below ground level. Board-marked concrete was poured to walls, floor and roof to form a textured cube. Two strip roof lights mark the passage of light throughout the day on the walls.

© Nicolas Sedlatchek

© Nicolas Sedlatchek

© Nicolas Sedlatchek

© Nicolas Sedlatchek

House in Saviese by anako’architecture, Savièse, Switzerland

Opening to views of the Alpine Mountains and the banks of the Rhône River, anako’s house was made with blind walls of raw concrete that form a monolithic volume. Concrete became structure, space and light with walls shaped by metallic formwork and a wooden skin lining.

© Paz Arquitectura

© Paz Arquitectura

© Paz Arquitectura

© Paz Arquitectura

Corallo House by Paz Arquitectura, Santa Rosalía, Guatemala

Located on a dense hillside forest in Guatemala City, Corallo House embraces the surrounding forest landscape. Aiming to preserve existing trees on site, the floor plan changes in level to adapt to the existing topography. As the main structural component, concrete was left exposed with the texture of its wood formwork.

© Akira Koyama + KEY OPERATION INC. / ARCHITECTS

© Akira Koyama + KEY OPERATION INC. / ARCHITECTS

© Akira Koyama + KEY OPERATION INC. / ARCHITECTS

© Akira Koyama + KEY OPERATION INC. / ARCHITECTS

Yotsuya Tenera by Akira Koyama + KEY OPERATION INC. / ARCHITECTS, Tokyo, Japan

As a housing complex filling the blank spaces between the streets and alleys, Yotsuya Tenera was created with 12 residential units. The harsh cast concrete finish was softened with wood texture to create a harmonious appearance with cedar and larch plywood formwork.

© Steimle Architekten

© Steimle Architekten

© Steimle Architekten

© Steimle Architekten

E20 House by Steimle Architekten, Pliezhausen, Germany

Sited south of Stuttgart in Pliezhausen, the E20 House takes the form of a monolithic concrete volume. The striking geometry features openings cut into the solid concrete shell, while rough-sawn wooden board formwork gave the concrete a lively texture.

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

The New Swiss Embassy in Abidjan by LOCALARCHITECTURE, Cocody, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Converting a private residence into a workplace, this new embassy building was made to respect the existing villa and embody Swiss values while embracing the context of Côte d’Ivoire. As a new public façade raised above ground level, the project includes concrete pillars and a wide external covered gallery. The raw concrete was made with timber formwork that imprints the material and echoes Abidjan’s architectural heritage.

© Estudi Nao Arquitectura

© Estudi Nao Arquitectura

© Estudi Nao Arquitectura

© Estudi Nao Arquitectura

Esteve Albert High School by Estudi Nao Arquitectura, Sant Vicenç de Montalt, Spain

Establishing a uniform horizontal datum among the topography, the Esteve Albert High School includes a half-buried floor with a direct relationship to a playground. The project’s concrete façade was expressed as a massive element formed with metal formwork geometry on its surface.

© Krischner & Oberhofer

© Krischner & Oberhofer

© Atelier Ulrike Tinnacher

© Atelier Ulrike Tinnacher

House Tby Atelier Ulrike Tinnacher, Austria

Emerging within the surrounding vineyards, House T faces the valley as a renovated vintner’s house. Divided into two structures, the design includes a rectangular cube and a planar, elongated building. Rough-sawn wooden plank formwork gave definition to the concrete where nature and building seamlessly merge into one another.

© aceboXalonso Studio

© aceboXalonso Studio

© aceboXalonso Studio

© aceboXalonso Studio

MUNCYT by aceboXalonso Studio, A Coruña, Spain

MUNCYT combines a dance school and museum into a single glass and concrete volume. The dance school was developed inside a structure of concrete boxes with formwork facing different directions. The museum rests on the concrete with large, versatile spaces enclosed in a steel and pattern-glass enclosure.

© Barycz & Saramowicz Design Office

© Barycz & Saramowicz Design Office

© Barycz & Saramowicz Design Office

© Barycz & Saramowicz Design Office

THE CONCRETE by Barycz & Saramowicz Design Office, Warsaw, Poland

As one of the largest concrete residences in Europe, this home is located at the gates of the city of Warsaw among the Izabelin in Kampinoski National Park. Focusing on the external envelope and building organization, the house features raw concrete with organic prints of formwork.

© Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

© Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

© Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

© Tham & Videgård Arkitekter

Summerhouse Lagnö by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, Stockholm archipelago

Overlooking the sea, Summerhouse Lagnö was made to connect to the archipelago’s granite bedrock. The two building volumes form a line in the land that opens out to the bay. Transverse gable roofs, a pleated long façade, and sliding glass partitions were combined with in situ cast concrete formed with plywood.

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© SHZF Architects

Huangpu District Wuliqiao Public Rental Housing // SHZF Architects

Shanghai, China

How to Design a Grand Entrance — Without the Heft

“It’s the door you can open with one finger.”

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