Architecture, as the art of blending culture with feeling (senses), manifests itself through materials by virtue of values that are always strongly related to the way each era in the history of humanity perceives the human both as body and as a mentality. Building materials and construction techniques act as mediators for this blending. The primary material on which architects work with, is not so much the material aspect of the form but its ideas and meaning.
Architectural materiality is not about the technical aspect of the realisation of a form but much more profoundly, it is about the manifestation of the philosophical background of architecture. Building materials and construction techniques contain architectural ideas which are embedded within them, controlling their proper choice and their contribution to structuring a form.
The five lectures are:
- Intellectual systems and the Materiality of Architecture. Introduction.
What is the choice of materials and techniques chosen to serve the materialisation of form founded on? Why have certain materials and techniques been employed in some intellectual systems more than others? How is this choice related to the concept of the architect?
How are the values of an intellectual system encompassed in the choice of architects for materials and techniques to materialise their ideas and transform them into built form consistent to these values?
- The materiality of architecture before Modernism
In the Renaissance, the built form reflected the ultimate expression of the natural beauty, a kind of objective definition of the elegance emerging from the idea of the human as a divine image. Measured through the use of geometric relations and proportions, the Da Vincian figure became the rule, the order and the reference point for guarantying the beauty of a form. The builders’ task, in turn, was to establish the use of available materials and to employ construction techniques appropriate to materialise this conception of elegance.
- The materiality of architecture in Modernism.
The ornamental garments of the past are confronted with notions of clarity, purity and honesty. For grasping and describing the complexity of this understanding, notions such as function, system, skeleton, frame and brickwork were invented to express a particular way of understanding the building through terms that corresponded to the living body. The expressive demands of this concept directed construction towards those materials that could, through their properties, respond to the typological classification in bearing and non-bearing, hence articulating a distinct compositional/design ethos and style. Mass-produced elements allow for repetition on the name of equity, democracy and internationalisation.
- The materiality of architecture in Post Modernism.
Post Modernism strived to trace meaningful contents and references that define its social and cultural nature. The non-load bearing elements introduced by Modernism, asserted their independence at the end of 1960s and became building parts capable of alluding to meanings. The building elevation was no longer the inseparable part of a whole, but was understood as the expressive body that opened up to the city and communicated, talked and informed about itself and its cultural context. New techniques are employed to reproduce established forms that allude to the past and fulfil the need for collective memory references.
- Materiality and Digital Architecture.
In the contemporary paradigm the virtual, the immaterial, the hybrid, the composite, the mutable do not only appear as properties of architecture and of its material form but also as values expressing this ethos and declaring a new relationship or a refreshed admiration of the natural, the living, the alive. As a consequence there is a shift of focus of architects’ interest from the design process to the design of the ‘genetic material’ of the form and, in turn, of the design of the building materials that will materialise it. New building materials are now created with predefined properties employing advanced digital technologies. New methods such as digital fabrication allow for a seamless process from the conceptual stage to the materialisation of ideas and mass-customisation portrays the unique and independent, mutable profile of contemporary humans.