In the course of history, materiality has been part of shaping our living environments from the ground up, giving birth to a king’s empire with constructions providing distinctions among others; an expression of success, wealthiness and power, where technological development was expressed by the use of raw materials as the pureness of it all.
Today, when we talk about materials in architecture, the process of manufacturing reigns above it all in order to express whatever desire design withholds, almost without limits. The sincerity within the material’s rawness is now facing its faux-version when costs are at stake and time is of the essence, mostly for reaching the intended design. Although time for the life of the building, or its longevity, are not always taken into account.
Looking further into the processes of making and using materials, technological modifications have been incorporated into the manufacturing process and furthermore into construction. Materials began to acquire a variety of properties never before experienced in traditional processes and it is through the explorations of this new millennia when we can actually explore and explode with amazing ideas, materializing the most outrageous designs in history.
What has happened to geometry and math these days? Coding, programming, testing… that’s what’s happening.
Philosopher Marshall McLuhan once stated: “the medium is the message” and for the “message” of any medium or technology, “is the change of scale or pace of pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. Changing the process of construction through technology, or changing the traditional tectonics adjusted to parameters of reactions due to climate change and providing resilience onto whatever is at stake; the results provide a “message” with justification reaching unconventional means and methods along with never before seen material behavior as expressed at the SAHRD Center and the Chokkura Plaza.
This is the moment when programming which includes 3D printing, robotic arms, laser cutters and other alternate methods, proclaim priority towards innovation; precisely what architect Blaine Brownell coined as “Disruptive Application”.
Architectural design holds a direct relation to social, cultural and environmental factors for which it is recognized and though of as architecture. For this relationship to be explicit, materials must act as the bonding agent between the design idea and the constantly evolving effects surrounding the habitable object.
The medium, as being the process with which we install or apply the specified materiality, must provide the message intended in the design addressing reactions to environmental factors as one, which in return aids human relation and in consequence, the cultural memory of its context. In the end, the quest of innovation resides on the synergistic efficiency of them all.
The application of any material and the alterations or disruption executed over these applications, determine much of the message embedded on the basis of design. That is when its phenomenology enters in action.
The provision of daylight inside a room for example, does not have to be limited by the window found on a catalog with fixed dimensions and standard materials; light can be also provided by the programmatic disposition of fenestrations and customization (the medium), providing insertions of light in a space for a specific purpose at a specific time (the message).
It is not necessarily attached to the glazing itself, but the disposition of the materials for which the walls where built, the use of the space and the disposition of the building on site, that compose the synergy provided by the message intended.
Nonetheless, the study of materiality goes from macro to micro as Thomas Schröpfer in his book Material Design: Informing Architecture by Materiality explains, feeding the constraints found in the architectural industry regarding material selection and the specificity of one element in question that controls the design almost totally: “Material selection can be based on a variety of choices. Often designers select materials for their shelf life, phenomenological qualities, or the flexibility of their detailing and connection. However, the connection detail is more crucial to a system’s flexibility and the aesthetic of complex architectural forms. From the simple nail to a custom fabricated joint, the connection detail contains the information for delimiting the articulation and performance of a system.”
The intentions of the message in architecture is now a matter of the technological medium, one that requires computational data, analysis and evaluations starting from the conceptual form, following the chosen materials and up to its smallest connection detail as a system.
The technological alterations provided by the materiality selected, the disruptive application along with other relations to contextual dialogue, is now an essential medium in the quest of the phenomenological message embedded in architecture. It is an opportunity of innovation residing in technological tools and analytical thought towards conscious design.