Concrete is Earthquake Resistant?

When asked to think about a good, earthquake resistant material, one probably thinks of a material that can bend or has a little bit of flexibility to it. Not hard, ridged concrete. So, really, who needs innovative materials when we have concrete! Many important buildings in Japan are constructed of concrete and this has proved to be a very practical building material in an earthquake-prone area. Japan lies on the western side of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of frequent volcanic and earthquake activity that roughly encircles the Pacific Ocean.

Pritzker Prize winning architect Tadao Ando has designed many buildings in and around Osaka and Kobe, Japan. They are all constructed of concrete and are renowned for their beauty. One of the most famous, and certainly the most beautiful, is the Water Temple which he designed for the Shingon sect of Buddhists. It is located on Awajishima (Awaji Island), which is in the Seto Inland Sea, near Osaka, Japan.

The epicenter of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake was under this island. This was a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that killed over 6000 people, but the Water Temple was undamaged. The lack of damage was all the more amazing when one considers the seeming vulnerability of this building – it has a lotus pond for its roof. In spite of this additional burden on the building’s structure, it survived unscathed. This is an excellent example of how well suited concrete is for buildings in earthquake-prone areas like Japan.


Furuyama, Masao. Tadao Ando: The Geometry of Human Space. Cologne: Taschen, 2006. 46-49. Print.

“Gallery: Water Temple – Shingonshu Honpukuji – Tadao Ando.”, n.d. Web. 2 Oct 2012. <;.


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