The history of architecture shows that the use of raw materials has always been somewhat common, whether in ancient vernacular techniques or within the Brutalist movement, to name a few. It is evident that the language of a project is often linked to its material, as various sensations and the perception of space are directed by the aesthetic and physical quality of the given element. For this reason, we have gathered ten buildings that highlight the quality of their materials, whether to make a statement, reinterpret a technique from the past, or to re-signify the potency of some of these elements.
São Paulo, Brasil
This school of Architecture and Urbanism began its construction in 1966 and was completed in 1969. The double trapezoidal pillars prop a large concrete cobblestone, as it hangs over the air, generating a contrast between the mass of the volume and its supporting points. Through the open ground floor, a large central void, which in the course of its permeability at all levels, allows a circulation that brings about different perspectives and discoveries of this great building.
Amateur Architecture Studio, founded by Wang Shu (winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2012), seeks to dialogue with nature and Chinese heritage in its projects. Raw materials, such as ceramics and stones, are constantly used in a way that the architectural language manifests itself in the face of the fast modernization of the Chinese architectural character.
An emblematic work of the Modernist Movement, the project was built in 1929 as the German National Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exhibition. Mies van der Rohe traces its minimalist language through the use of materials that were at the heart of modernity. The pavilion's characteristics stand between the geometric rigor in horizontal and vertical planes, and the clarity of assembly through the extensive use of metal structures and glass throughout. In this particular project, the adoption of different types of marble on the walls marks the aesthetic value of this material that ends up protagonizing the space.
Born to a carpenter father, Zumthor had his contact with wood very early and began working with this craft since 1958. Years later, the architect received the Pritzker Prize in 2009, and joined the French artist Louise Bourgeois to design the Steilneset memorial in 2011. Here, wood appears as part of the expressive material of the pavilion that relates directly to the context, taking inspiration from the vast shelves used to dry the daily catch. The project has been implanted in a region where men and women were accused of witchcraft during the 17th century for 100 years, and were burned at the stake and tortured. The 125-meter structure runs along the rocky beach and its vegetation, setting a landmark in the region.
London, the UK
The Mexican architect's pavilion included concrete tile walls, a curved mirrored ceiling, and a triangular reflection of water; another example of how through the simplicity of materials, it is possible to generate unpredictable complexity. In this specific project, the concrete tiles form a pattern that constitutes a dialogue with the entire environment and reflective surfaces, generating decorative details and new forms on this surface. The narrative created in this project and the particularity of the materials used, showcase a clear reference of the patios in Mexican architecture, and reinterprets the "celosia", a Mexican element that works as a closure which allows the breeze and natural light.
"We chose the idea of a vernacular Rwandan village as our organizing principle: a series of human-scaled pavilions clustered to create security and community for up to 300 women", the architect describes her project, which aims to create economic opportunities, rebuild infrastructure, and restore African heritage through the reinterpretation of circular structures. Based on local vernacular construction methods, rounded perforated brick walls, which allow for passive cooling and sun protection, are the solution found to maintain the community privacy as well.
Koudogou, Burkina Faso
In Kéré's words: "A The architecture not only functions as a marker in the landscape, it is also a testament to how local materials, in combination with creativity and team-work, can be transformed into something significant with profound lasting effects". By innovating the way construction materials of local origins are used, the architect used ancestral wisdom to solve comfort issues in a simple way, and with an identity recognizable to the building's users.
São Paulo, Brasil
The sports complex of Sesc Pompeia is resolved by exposed concrete volumes that are connected by pre-stressed concrete walkways. The buildings are marked by the forms (wood, styrofoam, and plastic) used during concreting. The architect's famous phrase "I have the same horror for air conditioning as I have for carpets", inspired the creation of openings that allow cross ventilation within the blocks, which according to the architect, are like "prehistoric 'holes' in the caves, without glasses, with nothing".
Buenos Aires, Argentina
One of the most acclaimed buildings of Brutalist architecture, the Bank of London and South America presents a composition that introduces a new dynamic to the urban fabric through the contrast with its neighbors and generosity of the circulation of pedestrians. Testa achieves this "primordium" by a light glass façade, that goes almost unnoticed, as it is indented by the sequence and rhythm of different thicknesses of the concrete columns on the perimeter of the street, all with the sculptural factors that the interiors possess.
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Scaffolding is often hidden, serving only as a support for other architectural elements. In this case, the project by Carla Juaçaba and Bia Lessa revealed them, bringing all the potential of dialogue with the environment and permeability that this raw structural option provides. Thus, as they themselves wished, the interferences of the view and the climate, also turn into exhibition materials next to the built pavilion. Another great advantage of this solution is the easy reuse of these elements in other constructions.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 18, 2020.