The Materiality of Architecture

2020
Author:

Antoine Picon

The Materiality of Architecture

A new paradigm combining architectural tradition with emerging technologies

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. 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.

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.

The Materiality of Architecture

Antoine Picon is G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He is chairman of the Fondation Le Corbusier and author of numerous books, including Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity; Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for the Design Professions; and French Architects and Engineers in the Age of Enlightenment.

The Materiality of Architecture

Contents

Introduction: Matter, Materials, Materiality

1. From Making to Expression

2. Architecture and Language: An Incomplete Encounter

3. Animation and Materiality

4. Architectural History and Regimes of Materiality

5. Architecture and Materiality in the Digital Era

Conclusion. Situations and Décors: Towards a Politics of Architectural Materiality

Acknowledgments

Index