Materials Aphorisms

Aphorisms on:


“The brick is another teacher. How sensible this small, handy shape, so useful for every purpose. What logic in its bonding, what liveliness in the play of patterns.” – Mies van der Rohe

“You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction.  Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: `This is beautiful.’ That is architecture.  Art enters in.” – Le Corbusier

“The business of architecture is to establish emotional relationships by means of raw materials.” – Le Corbusier

“The building is exactly what we feel and touch, exactly what we feel beneath our feet: a cast concrete, stony body.” – P. Zumthor

“There are two ways to make use of materials: by simplifying complex forms, or enriching simple ones.” – C. Moore

“The effort to yield truly innovative forms and spaces can only be achieved if the design process involves knowledge offered by the sciences and engineering of mechanics, materials, and structures.” – C.D. Elliot

“An architect must begin at the beginning… Architects must exercise well trained imagination to see in each material, either natural or compounded plastics, their own inherent style.  All materials may be beautiful, their beauty much or entirely depending upon how well they are used by the architect.” – F.L. Wright

“The refinement and transformation of raw materials are essential signs of civilization… our cultural evolution has brought us to a world where material innovation is the major symbol of progress.” – G. Beylerian

“When a material is used in new and unexpected ways, or where its characteristics are presented in an unconventional condition, the level of design is raised.” – V.B. Bell

“As new materials are invented and technological advances made, architectural process has moved from working within the limits of static materials to transforming them into dynamic elements by combining, laminating, casting, and weaving. We can vicariously experience the fantasy of immortality through technological innovation, as it is conceivable that we will soon be able to create invincible materials.” – T. Mori

“After a century largely dominated by discussions of space and form, there is now renewed interest in material and tectonic aspects of architecture.” – R. Weston

“Every work of art should reflect in its appearance the material as physical matter… In this way we may speak of a wood style, a brick style, an ashlar style, and so forth.” – G. Semper.

“We expect nothing from materials in themselves, but only from the right use of them. Even the new materials give us no superiority. Each material is only worth what we make of it.” – Mies van der Rohe

“Each material has its own message, and to the creative artists, its own song….Every new material means a new form, a new use if used according to its nature.” – F.L. Wright

“For all their radicalism, Modern architects were avowedly traditional in their commitment to ‘honest’ expression of structure an materials… they eagerly embraced new materials… radically new kinds of space emerged, but… the aim was always to make of them a new vernacular.” – R. Weston

“The material qualities of contemporary surfaces that are most intriguing are precisely those that are the most unstable, that put into question the singularity of material properties and the absoluteness of material definitions.” – S. Kennedy

“The antagonism between new and old materials, or between high and low technologies of production, may be dispelled through strategies that deliberately mis-use materials as a form of political action in architecture.”  – Sakula

“You can have a conversation with concrete… the beauty of what you create comes if you honor the material for what it really is.” – L. Kahn

“Concrete is mud. I work with concrete, not against it.  I like mud.” – P. Rudolph

“In wood’s multiple situations, we see imitations of our own mortality, in its infinitely variable grain patterns, we see artistry by nature itself.” – O.R. Ojeda

“These rocks… waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn: waiting for the shape my hands will give them…” – H. Roark, in Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

“For me, metal is the material of our time. It enables architecture to become sculpture.” – F. Gehry

“[Plaster is] the material with a memory. The very texture of time becomes part of its enrichment.” – C. Moore

“So, more than a substance, plastic is the very idea of its infinite transformation; as its everyday name indicates, it is ubiquitously made visible.  And it is this, in fact, which makes it a miraculous substance: a material is always sudden transformation of nature. Plastic remains impregnated throughout with this wonder: it is less a thing than a trace of a movement.” – R. Barthes

Reinforced concrete is the best structural material yet devised by mankind. Almost by magic, we have been able to create ‘melted’ stones of any desired shape, structurally superior, because of their tensile strength, to natural stone.” – P.L. Nervi

“Glass is noticeable yet not quite visible. It is the great membrane, full of mystery yet tough… It is evident that a material of such qualities requires the building itself to be remodeled, conceived in a revolutionary way.” – A. Korn

“When you are designing in brick, you must ask the brick what it wants or what it can do. Brick will say: ‘I like an arch’.” – L. Kahn


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