The Steel Age Is Over. Has The Next Age Begun?

As of now, has only been applied to small scale applications, such as the Textile Room by P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Image © Monica Nouwens

Andrew Carnegie once said, “Aim for the highest.” He followed his own advice. The powerful 19th century steel magnate had the foresight to build a bridge spanning the Mississippi river, a total of 6442 feet. In 1874, the primary structural material was iron — steel was the new kid on the block. People were wary of steel, scared of it even. It was an unproven alloy.

Nevertheless, after the completion of Eads Bridge in St. Louis, Andrew Carnegie generated a publicity stunt to prove steel was in fact a viable building material. A popular superstition of the day stated that an elephant would not cross an unstable bridge. On opening day, a confident Carnegie, the people of St. Louis and a four-ton elephant proceeded to cross the bridge. The elephant was met on the other side with pompous fanfare. What ensued was the greatest vertical building boom in American history, with Chicago and New York pioneering the cause. That’s right people; you can thank an adrenaline-junkie elephant for changing American opinion on the safety of steel construction.

So if steel replaced iron – as iron replaced bronze and bronze, copper –  what will replace steel? Carbon Fiber.

Wood Encouragement Policy Coming To Australia

Cross Stitch House; Melbourne / FMD Architects. Image © Peter Bennetts

Latrobe City Council is pushing an initiative that would put “wood first.” If implemented, the “Wood Encouragement Policy” would educate architects and industry professionals about the structural and environmental benefits of wood in an effort to promote the local timber industry and use of sustainable building . Following the lead of the United States and New Zealand, both of which recently established “wood encouragement” policies, the council hopes that this will set a precedent that can be applied throughout the rest of Australia. 

Material Studies: When Architecture Meets Fashion

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A few months ago, fourteen 5th-year architecture students at the University of Southern California (USC) were given an unusual challenge: select two , and two only, to design and construct… a Mao jacket. 

The results, exhibited at the university on March 7th, were fourteen fascinating experimentations with unusual materials – including everything from rubber erasers to acrylic paint to 5,500 metal Mao pins (shipped direct from China). 

As Lee Olvera, the studio lead, told USC News, “It’s an exploration of program and function. In architecture, we’re called upon to design the skins of buildings all the time. This project infuses our intuitive skills of artistry and aesthetics with the rigor of analytical and performance-based material experimentation to create innovative working solutions.”

Check out more images from this unusual studio project, after the break.

VIDEO: In Boston, Reclaiming the Craft of Brick

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Our friends at Mecanoo have shared a fascinating mini-documentary exploring the complex brickwork on display in their latest project in Boston’s Dudley Square, the Dudley Municipal Center(nearing completion). Called “Boston Bricks with a Dutch Touch,” this documentary features interviews with everyone involved in the project – from construction workers to architects – and focuses on the difficulty of using brick in this elaborate manner. Enjoy the video above and check out some fantastic images after the break.

Material Substance: When Material and Mechanism are One

The following is the first article of Material Substance, a column, penned by Christopher Brenny and presented by AD Materials, which investigates the innovative applications of in architecture.

A material is nothing without a process. The characteristics of plastic, for example, vary dramatically depending on where and how the raw material is applied during the forming process. The same material can be used to create a bag, a solid container, or a woven textile. The difference between a disposable water bottle and carpeting is so distinct that one could not make the material connection without some foreknowledge of the manufacturing process of each.

The result of this material ecosystem is a scenario in which design and manufacturing must inform one another. This connection often moves so slowly in the building industry that it is difficult to perceive and very slow to adapt. Shape memory alloys such as nitinol (muscle wire), for example, are gradually moving into public nomenclature. While the novelty of such materials is ripe for exploration, application has proven difficult as the cost of such materials is quite prohibitive. Shape memory alloys, unless they are developed using more abundant metals such as aluminum, will likely remain a niche product developed for very specific applications.

Memory plastics, while less developed and responsive, have significant potential to become a familiar fixture in our daily lives. Combining this technology with the lightweight, structural capabilities of foamed materials, our preconceptions of the portable and flat packed may soon transform from disposable and insubstantial into something much more beautiful and valuable.

Eight Ingenious Interiors

In case you missed it, we’re re-publishing this popular post for your material pleasure. Enjoy!

Continuing with our -themed posts celebrating the launch of AD Materials (our US product catalog), we decided to round-up eight materials/products (from a light fixture made from woven irrigation hoses – really – to a wall made from shoeboxes) that make their interiors truly ingenious. Enjoy!

INFOGRAPHIC: Materials in Architecture (A History)

In case you missed it, we’re re-publishing this popular post for your material pleasure. Enjoy!

To celebrate AD Materials turning two three (months that is), we decided to dig a bit deeper into the we know and love. What’s their history? When did they first come to use – and where? How? If you want to know more about the lives – past and present – of concrete, glass, steel, and more, check out our fantastic new infographic after the break!

Round-Up: 40 Projects Inspired By Our Favorite Materials

In case you missed them, we’ve rounded up our four popular “Material Inspiration” posts, which celebrated the launch of our new US product catalog, ArchDaily Materials. Check them out below!

Light Matters: 7 Ways Daylight Can Make Design More Sustainable

Kaap Skil, Maritime and Beachcombers’ Museum, Winner of the Award 2012. Image Courtesy of Mecanoo Architecten

Daylight is a highly cost-effective means of reducing the energy for electrical lighting and cooling. But architectural education often reduces the aspect of daylight to eye-catching effects on facades and scarcely discusses its potential effects – not just on cost, but on health, well-being and energy.

This will explore the often unexplored aspects of daylight and introduce key strategies for you to better incorporate daylight into design: from optimizing building orientations to choosing interior surface qualities that achieve the right reflectance. These steps can significantly reduce your investment as well as operating costs. And while these strategies will certainly catch the interest of economically orientated clients, you will soon discover that daylight can do so much more.

More Light Matters with daylight, after the break…

Introducing our Latest Innovation: ArchDaily Materials

Dear Readers,

continually strives to be the ultimate source of inspiration, knowledge, and tools for architects around the world. Every potential initiative that we conjure up, we launch only if it aligns with our mission. 

Which is why we’re so excited to introduce to you a fantastic new resource: ArchDaily Materials

We know that many of you already browse our site for inspiration for your work – whether at the very beginnings of a project, when the design is still forming in your mind, or later on, as source references for details, facades, , etc. 

However, once you’ve found the material that inspired you, you’re left to your own devices to procure it (maybe you even settle for something else along the way). 

Well, no longer. With ArchDaily Materials, when you find the feature you’re looking for, you’ll be instantly connected to its maker. It’s Inspiration, Materialized (and effortlessly, we may add).

We’re still in the early stages and so will be fleshing out ArchDaily Materials with even more products and materials over the next few months; however, we invite you to explore this inspirational new resource and start integrating it into your everyday practice today. Enjoy!

Sincerely, 

The ArchDaily Team

TEDx: Metal that breathes / Doris Kim Sung

Biology student turn architect, Doris Kim Sung has dedicated her studies to the infinite possibilities of thermobimetals, smart that respond dynamically to temperature change. As tested with DO|SU Studio Architecture’s recent installation “Bloom”, whose surface is completely fabricated with thermobimetal, these smart materials are capable of relieving our dependence on energy-inefficient mechanical systems with their self-shading and self-ventilating properties.

Imagine a building skin capable of maintaining thermal comfort in an environmentally responsible and cost effective way by responsively mimicking the characteristics of human skin.

U.S. Forest Service develops Wood-based Nanomaterial

Micrograph picture of cellulose nanocrystals combined with PMMA fibers. Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

A -based nanomaterial composed of cellulose nanocrystals and cellulose nanofibrils is being evaluated at the Forest Products Laboratory, in support of a project at the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland. The material, presumably stronger than Kevlar, is being produced to create clear composites as reinforced glass for clear applications.  US Forest Services has opened a $1.7 million pilot plant in Wisconsin to develop the -based nanomaterial, whose future applications may include windshield and high performance glass.

Under development for three years, the material has the potential to be the strongest and optically clearest version of celllulose nano-fibrils.  Because wood is a renewable resource, the Forest Products Laboratory is optimistic that as the material enters the market, it will help reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while promoting industry growth in rural areas.

Reference: Architect MagazineForest Products Laboratory