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The Possibilities of Pigmented Concrete: 20 Buildings Infused With Color

The Possibilities of Pigmented Concrete: 20 Buildings Infused With Color

When we think of concrete, the color gray generally comes to mind. The traditional mixture of concrete, which comprises cement, gravel, sand, and water may vary in color depending on elements and admixtures but naturally varies from light to dark gray. However, compounds that add pigment to the mixture are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular,  as they infuse the concrete with hues more stable than paint. These shades result from the addition of oxides:  yellow, red and their derivations (eg. brown) are obtained with the addition of iron oxide; chromium and cobalt oxide create the greens and blues, respectively. For black concrete, it is common to use black iron oxide and carbon oxide combined with pozzolanic cement.

Centro Cultural Comunitário Teotitlán del Valle / PRODUCTORA. Image © LGM Studio - Luis GallardoMuseu Cais do Sertão / Brasil Arquitetura. Image © Nelson KonResidência Montagnola / Attilio Panzeri & Partners. Image © Giorgio MarafiotiGalería Solar S. Roque / Manuel Maia Gomes. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG+ 21

Pigmenting the concrete can go beyond the aesthetic function. It can work  to enhance the impression of a volume, contextualize a building in its surroundings, or even refer to the design concept. See below a selection of projects that use pigmented concrete, and note its possibilities:

Black Concrete

Villa Montagnola / Attilio Panzeri & Partners

In this residence, the architect makes a striking contrast between the dark exterior, the wooden frames, and the completely white interior.

Residência Montagnola / Attilio Panzeri & Partners. Image © Giorgio Marafioti
Residência Montagnola / Attilio Panzeri & Partners. Image © Giorgio Marafioti

Textilmacher / tillicharchitektur

"Depending on the season, time of day, climate and incidence of light, the facade changes constantly in character." "The matte surface of the concrete pigmented with anthracite responds to its surroundings."

Textilmacher / tillicharchitektur. Image © Michael Compensis
Textilmacher / tillicharchitektur. Image © Michael Compensis

L23 House / Pitagoras Group

"The visible pigmented concrete defines the structural volume. Anthracite zinc has been chosen to coat a few facade panels."

Casa L23 / Pitagoras Group. Image © Jose Campos
Casa L23 / Pitagoras Group. Image © Jose Campos

Red Concrete

Casa Terra / Bernardes Arquitetura

"Casa Terra comes from the interleaving of parallel walls made of pigmented concrete perpendicular to the central circulation gallery. The articulation between these components generates spaces that sometimes delineate residential functions or create patios that open to the main garden.

Casa Terra / Bernardes Arquitetura. Image © Leonardo Finotti
Casa Terra / Bernardes Arquitetura. Image © Leonardo Finotti

Museum Tonofenfabrik Lahr / Heneghan Peng Architects

In this case, the pigmented red concrete mimics the original historical building.

Museum Tonofenfabrik Lahr / Heneghan Peng Architects. Image © Thomas Bruns
Museum Tonofenfabrik Lahr / Heneghan Peng Architects. Image © Thomas Bruns

Center for Interpretation of The Battle of Atoleiros / Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos + Oficina Ideias em Linha

"The volume of the building reminds us of the tactility of traditional medieval construction, with rugged and textured surfaces, achieved through the use of pigmented concrete with gross and irregular expression, very close to the primitive textures obtained by the human hand."

Center for Interpretation of The Battle of Atoleiros / Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos + Oficina Ideias em Linha. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
Center for Interpretation of The Battle of Atoleiros / Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos + Oficina Ideias em Linha. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Curno Public Library and Auditorium / Archea Associati

"Through various laboratory tests and several samples, a colored concrete was selected with a "blend" between natural iron oxide pigments and the addition of lubricants to make the concrete workable according to the shapes of the molds."

Curno Public Library and Auditorium / Archea Associati. Image © Pietro Savorelli
Curno Public Library and Auditorium / Archea Associati. Image © Pietro Savorelli

Boaçava House / Una Arquitetos

"The concrete wall that supports the upper construction divides the site longitudinally, giving independence to the service areas. This piece was pigmented with iron oxide, the presence of this material increases from the reflections of light, and accompanies the transition between areas external and internal."

Casa Boaçava / Una Arquitetos. Image © Leonardo Finotti
Casa Boaçava / Una Arquitetos. Image © Leonardo Finotti

Pael House / Pezo von Ellrichshausen

The pigmented concrete was layered so that the top layer spilled over that of the anterior. "It's the crying house," said a carpenter, while polishing the furniture, "perhaps the only way to avoid aging is to be born old."

Casa Pael / Pezo von Ellrichshausen. Image © Cristobal Palma
Casa Pael / Pezo von Ellrichshausen. Image © Cristobal Palma

The Rose of Vierschach / Pedevilla Architects

"The red color emphasizes the originality of the new fire station. All surfaces were constructed with pigmented concrete to highlight the monolithic character of the building. The volume dimensions remain recognizable from the outside, almost amplifying the massive appearance of the structure.

A Rosa de Vierschach / Pedevilla Architects. Image © Gustav Willeit
A Rosa de Vierschach / Pedevilla Architects. Image © Gustav Willeit

Casa das Histórias Paula Rego / Eduardo Souto de Moura

The building can be immediately recognized thanks to its dual pyramid towers and the red concrete used in its construction.

Casa das Histórias Paula Rego / Eduardo Souto de Moura. Image © Vitor Gabriel
Casa das Histórias Paula Rego / Eduardo Souto de Moura. Image © Vitor Gabriel

PUCP Science, Engineering and Architecture Library / Llosa Cortegana Arquitectos

"Its materiality responds to the nature of the square, to its exogenous conditions, its volume is pierced in such a way that it builds looks and controls the sun."

Biblioteca de Ciencias, Ingenieria y Arquitectura PUCP / Llosa Cortegana Arquitectos. Image © Juan Solano Ojasi
Biblioteca de Ciencias, Ingenieria y Arquitectura PUCP / Llosa Cortegana Arquitectos. Image © Juan Solano Ojasi

Galería Solar S. Roque / Manuel Maia Gomes

The building is a passage between two others. Through the red pigmented concrete, it simultaneously merges and detaches from the previous volumes.

Galería Solar S. Roque / Manuel Maia Gomes. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
Galería Solar S. Roque / Manuel Maia Gomes. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

House in Red Concrete / Sanden+Hodnekvam Architects

"All facades, both over- and underground are made insulated concrete (Cellcrete) with a 50mm outer layer in pigmented concrete. Iron oxide is added to the concrete mix to create a distinct red colour. The slabs are exposed in the ceiling to make the structure readable."

House in Red Concrete / Sanden+Hodnekvam Architects. Image Cortesia de Sanden+Hodnekvam Architects
House in Red Concrete / Sanden+Hodnekvam Architects. Image Cortesia de Sanden+Hodnekvam Architects

Yellow concrete

Hornitos Hotel / Gonzalo Mardones V Arquitectos

Hornitos Hotel / Gonzalo Mardones V Arquitectos. Image © Nico Saieh
Hornitos Hotel / Gonzalo Mardones V Arquitectos. Image © Nico Saieh

"Each volume was made of pigmented reinforced concrete with the colors of the desert, intensifying the intention of mimesis to try to go unnoticed."

2 Houses in Lerin / azpilicueta arquitectura y paisaje

2 Houses in Lerin / azpilicueta arquitectura y paisaje. Image © Rubén Bescós
2 Houses in Lerin / azpilicueta arquitectura y paisaje. Image © Rubén Bescós

Yellow pigmented concrete blends with local buildings built in adobe.

Centro Cultural Comunitário Teotitlán del Valle / PRODUCTORA

Centro Cultural Comunitário Teotitlán del Valle / PRODUCTORA. Image © LGM Studio - Luis Gallardo
Centro Cultural Comunitário Teotitlán del Valle / PRODUCTORA. Image © LGM Studio - Luis Gallardo

"The Cultural Center uses a minimal palette of local materials (pigmented concrete, wood, clay tiles and bricks) to integrate with the surrounds."

Museu Cais do Sertão / Brasil Arquitetura

Museu Cais do Sertão / Brasil Arquitetura. Image © Nelson Kon
Museu Cais do Sertão / Brasil Arquitetura. Image © Nelson Kon

"The ocher yellow pigmented concrete represents the warm color of the soil of the Brazilian agreste."

Museu do Rio e Aquário de Água Doce de Karlovac / 3LHD

Museu do Rio e Aquário de Água Doce de Karlovac / 3LHD. Image © Jure Živković
Museu do Rio e Aquário de Água Doce de Karlovac / 3LHD. Image © Jure Živković

"The concrete used on the facade is pigmented and produced by an in-place method in the construction yard; a special type and sizes of granulation were selected to achieve the desired effect - to make the color of the facade look like the color of the soil. "

Blue concrete

Bautista House / PRODUCTORA

Casa Bautista / PRODUCTORA. Image © Onnis Luque
Casa Bautista / PRODUCTORA. Image © Onnis Luque

Generally, blue pigments for concrete are made from a mixture of iron oxides, chromium and cobalt. In this house in Mexico, "The entire project was cast in an organic blue color concrete, which reacts over time according to its exposure to the sun and its position in the house, creating tones that range from ocean blue to sunset pink."

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on 02/18/2019, and updated on 02/17/2021.

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Cite: Souza, Eduardo. "The Possibilities of Pigmented Concrete: 20 Buildings Infused With Color" [As possibilidades do Concreto Pigmentado: 20 edifícios impregnados de cor] 22 Feb 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/910825/the-possibilities-of-pigmented-concrete-18-buildings-infused-with-color> ISSN 0719-8884
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Center for Interpretation of The Battle of Atoleiros / Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos + Oficina Ideias em Linha. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

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