The Materiality of Architecture
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
192 pages, 140.00 x 216.00 x 25.00 mm, 36 B-W Illustrations
- ISBN: 9781517909482
- Published: February 2021
A new paradigm combining architectural tradition with emerging technologies
Digital tools have launched architecture into a dizzying new era, one in which wood, stone, metal, glass, and other traditional materials are augmented by pixels and code. In this ambitious exploration, an eminent thinker examines what, exactly, the building blocks of architecture have meant over the centuries and how technology may—or may not—be changing how we think about them.
Antoine Picon argues that materiality is not only about matter and that the silence and inscrutability—the otherness—of raw materials work against humanity’s need to live in a meaningful world. He describes how people define who they are, in part, through their specific physical experience of architectural materials and spaces. Indeed, Picon asserts, the entire paradox of the architectural discipline consists in its desire to render matter expressive to human beings. Through a retrospective review of canonical moments in Western European architecture, Picon offers an original perspective on the ways materiality has varied throughout centuries, demonstrating how experiences of the physical world have changed in relation to the evolution of human subjectivity.
Ultimately, Picon concludes that computer-based design methods are not an abrupt departure from previous architectural traditions but rather a new way for architects to control material resources. The result reinforces the fundamentally humanistic nature of architectural endeavor with an increasing sense of design freedom and a release from material constraint in the digital era.
"Thanks to his immense knowledge of building technologies, along with the acute observations of contemporary practice made over the years, Antoine Picon has carved a masterful synthesis on the very substance of architecture. From ancient vestiges to current designs, the meaning of materials in designs and buildings is dissected in this dense, inspired volume. A must-read for students, scholars, and professionals alike."—Jean-Louis Cohen, author of The Future of Architecture Since 1889: A Worldwide History
"This rich and synthetic book rethinks four centuries of Western architectural discourse, arguing that materiality is not a raw essence, nor a state of being, but a branch of technological thinking. In six brisk chapters, Antoine Picon wonderfully combines lucid explanations of architects’ technical processes with insights on their cultural motives. The main takeaway—and it is a brilliant one—is that materials in architecture have ultimately served as a kind of linguistic referent. A needed corrective to recent claims of dematerialization, and a highly rewarding read."—Lucia Allais, author of Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the Twentieth Century