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The Language of Architecture by Val Warke, Andrea Simitch

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8988
Materials are an architect’s instruments. When a
composer writes a piece of music, it makes a consider-
able difference if it is to be written for a solo piano,
a string quartet, an orchestra, or a marching band.
Similarly, an architect’s choice of materials has a
profound effect on both the form of the work and its
reception by an audience.
Materials, both natural and artificial, retain traces of their origin, and they communicate
intrinsic qualities that evoke associations and responses in their perceivers.
10
materials
THE LANGUAGE OF ARCHITECTURE
A material’s behavior bears witness to its
interaction with a variety of both ephemeral
and physical contexts while its properties
inform its constructive processes: its
fabrication, transformation, potential
perforations, types of apertures, and the
details of its interactions with other materials
within a construction and its environment.
Materials, both natural and artificial, retain
traces of their origin, and they communicate
intrinsic qualities that evoke associations and
responses in their perceivers.
Characteristics
A material is often identified with its
sensorial capabilities, which in turn inform
how a space is perceived and how a surface
performs.
Phenomenal
Intrinsic to each material are its physical
attributes, which can perhaps best be
described by a series of pairings—thick or
thin, opaque or transparent, matte or
reflective, dark or light. It is the qualities of
these attributes that suggest meaningful
associations with not only the program of a
work, but also its perceptual experience. A
wall made of glass might appear to dissolve
the boundary between public and private, or
inside and out, but it can also convey a crisp
brittleness and a reflective hardness that
suggests an atmospheric serenity. Of course,
the manipulation of this very same material—
tinting, screening, sandblasting, for exam-
ple—can easily reverse these characteristics,
and it is in exploiting these reversals that a
material’s capability to expand its programs
and perceptions is often discovered.
material, but one that brings
unexpected programmatic
(stained glass windows) and
perceptual (illumination)
associations. The work
exploits marble’s potential as
a material that can simultane-
ously demonstrate multiple
characteristics: from the
exterior, it is a cubic rock by
day and a lantern by night.
Overlooking Lake Lucerne in
Meggen, Switzerland, stands
Pius Church designed and
built by Franz Füeg between
1964 and 1966. Here, marble,
a typically opaque material,
has been thinly cut to just
over 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick to
produce a surprising
translucency, demonstrating
a characteristic that is not
normally associated with the
(continued on page 94)

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