Architectural and Decorative Concrete

Concrete is one of the most widely used construction materials in the world. One special subset is called architectural and decorative concrete, which refers to cement-based products that provide an aesthetic finish and structural capabilities in one.

These concrete materials are made to be seen. Whether creating broad expanses or minute details, concrete permanently captures the chosen look. Achieving an architectural or decorative appearance usually requires that something different be done to the concrete. Whether that involves special forms, special finishing techniques, or special ingredients, the variety of effects is almost unlimited.

For more information see PCA's Finishing Concrete with Color and Texture, PA124.


overview3Masonry is one of our oldest, most established building techniques. Evolution in materials, mix designs, and engineering allow for the construction today of even stronger masonry buildings—structures that will last for generations. 

Concrete masonry units are available in a rainbow of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes, offering building designers the chance to create structural walls that are also beautiful. Architectural concrete masonry units offer a natural appearance that is striking in urban applications, and blends in with the natural beauty of rural areas—always complementing the building’s surrounding environment. 

For more information, see Concrete Masonry Handbook for Architects, Engineers, Builders, EB008.


plaster_over_wallStucco, or portland cement plaster, is a versatile facing material that can be applied to flat or curved surfaces either inside or outside any building or structure. Stucco has great appeal as a surface finish because of its utility, low first cost, and minimum need for maintenance.

In its hardened state, plaster is a desirable facing material: hard, strong, fire-resistant, and color-retentive. Because plaster is also breathable, or able to transmit moisture vapor, water that gets behind it does not become trapped. That makes it resistant to rot and fungus. Plaster has proved to be a durable wall cover in all climates, whether wet, dry, hot, or cold. 

The final appearance of the finish coat can be varied by changing the size and shape of the aggregate, using colored cement, adding pigments, changing the consistency of the finish mix, the method or equipment used for plastering, and the plasterer's skill in manipulating the finish coat.

For more information, see Portland Cement/Stucco Manual, EB049.