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.
Masonry: The Latest Architecture and News
Briefly, structural masonry is a construction system in which the walls of the building perform a structural function, using masonry units arranged in a way that is self-supporting and load-bearing. The walls will evenly distribute the load to the foundation and later into the ground.
Stacked in layers, the bricks, blocks, or stones may or may not be connected by a binder (mortar) and steel reinforcements that heavily influence the mechanical properties of the wall, dimensioned to resist active forces.
Brick is one of the most popular materials for architects designing with a vintage or rustic aesthetic: exposed brick walls are often touted as highly desirable for apartments, restaurants, and stores, and exterior brick facades can make a building or home feel warmer and more inviting. However, the color and cut of the brick can greatly influence the atmosphere it emanates, with white brick lending itself to more minimalist design and tan brick tending to feel more rustic and earthy. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular brick colors, ways to artificially color brick, and recent projects that use brick facades or interior brick elements effectively.
Iran’s architecture has long been rooted in Persian culture. From tea houses and pavilions to domestic huts and elaborate mosques, the country’s built environment is tied to these influences, as well as the landscape and its broader context. At the heart of Iran’s more recent projects is a desire to reinterpret history through new spaces and forms.
Sometimes known as the “Island of the Gods,” Jeju Island in South Korea is characterized by its volcanic rock, stunning waterfalls, and warm, tropical climate. Here, life is integrated with nature and the architecture is in harmony with the landscape. Dissolving Arch, a weather-specific installation by stpmj, responds to the island’s tropical environment. The structure began life as a solid brick vault, which then slowly dissolved in the hot and rainy periods of Jeju to produce a light, porous skeleton made of the remaining mortar which connects people with nature.
Boarding House for an Agricultural School / Technical University of Berlin / CODE Chair Construction + Design - Ralf Pasel
Henley Halebrown has released updates for their proposed mixed-use scheme in Hackney, London. 333 Kingland Road, previously occupied by a fire station, will soon be home to the Hackney New Primary School, commercial units, and dual aspect apartments. The scheme aims to address a need for school places and homes in London and to maintain a connection between learning and living in a dense urban environment.
Excavation is usually a bane for real estate developers. To make way for new buildings, truckloads of excavated waste are removed from site in a noisy, time-consuming and gas-guzzling process. Exploring a more sustainable solution, the California-based company Watershed Materials have developed an onsite pop-up plant which repurposes excavated material right at the job site to create concrete masonry units (CMUs) used in the development. By eliminating truck traffic, reusing waste and reducing imported materials, the result is a win for the environment.
A new construction worker has been lending high-efficiency help to job sites, laying bricks at almost three times the speed of a human worker. SAM (short for Semi-Automated Mason) is a robotic bricklayer that handles the repetitive tasks of basic brick laying, MIT Technology Review reports. While SAM handles picking up bricks, applying mortar and placing them at designated locations, its human partner handles worksite setup, laying bricks in specific areas (e.g. corners) and improving the aesthetic quality of the masonry.
Concrete blocks. Ever since manufacturers developed techniques to make them cheaper than traditional clay-fired bricks, concrete blocks have been one of our most ubiquitous construction materials. However, this ubiquity comes at a price: worldwide, the production of concrete accounts for around 5% of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and concrete blocks (as opposed to in-situ concrete or concrete panels) contributes a significant portion of these emissions.
To curb these runaway carbon emissions, a California-based company called Watershed Materials is developing alternatives to the traditional concrete block which uses less cement, dramatically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced; they even have a product in the works which they hope will offer a widely applicable concrete block alternative which uses no cement at all.
India has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and to accommodate it, a better building material is needed. Currently over 200 billion of the country’s traditional clay fired bricks are manufactured every year, resulting in numerous pollution and environmental problems. To address these issues, a team from MIT –- composed of students Michael Laracy and Thomas Poinot, along with professors Elsa Olivetti, Hamlin Jennings and John Ochsendorf -- has developed Eco-BLAC bricks: an alternative to traditional bricks that reuses industrial waste and is low-cost and low energy.
When one hears the term masonry architecture, digital fabrication and automated construction processes are probably not the first ideas to come to mind. By its very nature, the architecture produced with stone masonry is often heavy, massive, and incorporates less natural light than alternative methods. However, with their research proposal for "Smart Masonry," ZAarchitects are proposing to change masonry buildings as we know them and open opportunities for digital fabrication techniques in stone and other previously antiquated materials. Read on after the break to get a glimpse of what these new masonry buildings could look like and learn more about the process behind their construction.
In an age when 1:1 3D printed buildings are becoming ever more commonplace from the Netherlands to China, it's important to pause and assess the existing built fabric of our cities, towns and villages. If we want to maintain and preserve them whilst protecting the inherent craft imbued in their construction, the importance of nurturing and promoting these skills should be recognised.
In the UK, the Heritage Skills Hub (HSH) push to see "traditional building skills, conservation, restoration and responsible retrofit" included within all mainstream built environment courses. In a recent conversation with Cathie Clarke, CEO of the HSH, we discussed the obstacles faced by an organisation dedicated to conserving and teaching skills like stonemasonry, roof thatching, glass making, traditional brick construction to a new generation.
A unique biotechnology start-up company have developed a method of growing bricks from nothing more than bacteria and naturally abundant materials. Having recently won first place in the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Challenge, bioMason has developed a method of growing materials by employing microorganisms. Arguing that the four traditional building materials - concrete, glass, steel and wood - both contain a significant level of embodied energy and heavily rely on limited natural resources, their answer is in high strength natural biological cements (such as coral) that can be used "without negative impacts to the surrounding environment."
The studio of Debartolo Architects is a unique architectural design firm in that they are passionately committed to architectural excellence parallel with their commitment to serving clients and creating relevant and functionally-tuned environments for people. Founded in 1996 as a collaboration of the father-son team, the firm is built on the rich history of Jack Debartolo Jr. FAIA’s 22-year partnership with Anderson DeBartolo Pan, Inc. Through creativity, innovation and careful listening, their team has become one of the leading studios in creating highly-custom, well-tuned built-environments that respond to their client, context, culture and community.
For the STAAB Residence designed by Chen + Suchart Studio the context for this site consists of larger homes on one-acre lots. Aesthetically, the neighboring houses’ architectural language is more often than not, associated with speculative developer trends and styles, rather than an integrated understanding of the site, the views, and the potential. As a result, the project required a strategy which would edit out the immediate context of this neighborhood while focusing on distant views of the McDowell Mountains to the north and the valley to the south and southwest. The project also sought to create a protected courtyard space for the backyard and pool area as an immediate focus for the lower level of the house in contrast to the second level taking advantage of the more distant views.