Stone is one of the world's oldest building materials, appreciated for its strength and durability. In ancient times it was chosen for its abundance: As a natural material, it was readily available and dependable. But there's a lot more to the material than one might expect, and there's a reason why architects continue to build with it, around it, and in it. The structures on this list demonstrate stone's ability to shape-shift; it can be used in its raw form or polished for a sleeker effect. It's no wonder that it's the chosen material for important monuments and buildings such as places of worship, castles, and palaces, as it will outlast almost any other material.
Casa Milà, Barcelona, Spain, 1913, Antoni Gaudí
The last house that Gaudí ever designed, the structure earned the nickname La Pedrera (the Stone Quarry) for its unique limestone façade.
Church of San Giovanni Battista, Mogno, Switzerland,1996, Mario Botta
In 1986 an avalanche destroyed a 17th-century church, which Mario Botta replaced with his stunning design. White marble and dark gneiss give the tiny church an uplifting feel, and light floods in from above.
Pont du Gard, Nîmes, France, 60 CE
The tallest Roman aqueduct in the world, the Pont du Gard was used to bring fresh spring water to the area. The stones are impeccably cut with precision, and no mortar was used to keep it upright.
King Abdullah Financial District Grand Mosque, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2017, Omrania
Due to the large number of high-rises in Riyadh, the roof of the King Abdullah Financial District Grand Mosque was an important consideration in the design.
Muzeum Susch, Susch, Switzerland, 2018, Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy
What is left of a 12th-century monastery and a brewery were combined to create the Susch museum in Switzerland. Seeing as the two structures are protected, the architects took great strides to preserve them, though 9,000 tons of rock were excavated in order to provide more exhibition space.
Nevsehir Bus Terminal, Nevsehir, Turkey, 2010, Bahadir Kul Architects
The stone wall that surrounds the steel and glass structure provides shade and shelter inside the bus stop. The abstract forms are a nod to the region's topography.
Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Oslo, Norway, 2008, Snøhetta
According to Snøhetta, the building's low-lying form is intended to be landscape as much as it is architecture. The plaza is made of bush-hammered white Carrara marble
Sancaklar Mosque, Büyükçekmece, Turkey, 2012, Emre Arolat Architects
This subterranean space is partially submerged, which makes it low-energy and challenges traditional mosque design.
City of Culture of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 2011, Eisenman Architects
The building's design is inspired by the medieval street plan of Santiago, Spain, and evokes imagery of rolling hills, making it blend into the surrounding landscape.
Church of Saint George, Lalibela, Ethiopia, 1200s
Cut from volcanic tuff in the earth thirteenth century, this is the last of King Lalibela's rock-cut churches. The windows, floors, ceilings, and walls were all carved by hand.
Spassky Cave Church, Kostomarovo, Voronezh, Russia, 1600s
This wondrous church was carved from chalky cliff somewhere around the seventeenth century, though some say it's much older. There are two churches that burrow deep into the ground, and a covered bell tower that links them.
Uchimura Kanzo Memorial Stone Church, Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan, 1988, Kendrick Bangs Kellogg
Built in the tradition of the Japanese Non-church Movement, there aren't any religious artifacts like crosses or a transept. Instead, it is built with the idea of freedom of nature in mind, including an organic floor plan, foliage, rocks, a water channel, and ribbed skylights.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2007, Yusef Abdelki
Combining Moorish, Arabian, and Mughal architecture, the Sheikh Zayed is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. Its pure bright white marble exterior is matched with a warmer off-white marble interior, which holds the world's largest carpet.
Casa do Penedo, Fafe, Portugal, 1974
Appropriately dubbed the 'House of the Rock,' this structure in Portugal makes use of the huge glacial rocks that litter the area. Walls were put up with a little bit of concrete to create a shelter.
Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico, 2013, David Chipperfield Architects
As the home to a private collection of contemporary Latin American art, the Mexican travertine-clad structure breaks up the surrounding landscape with its arresting sawtooth roof.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest