Antoine PiconOct 1, 2021
The Materiality of Architecture
University of Minnesota Press 2021
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 The Materiality of Architecture (U Minnesota Press, 2021), 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.
Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM is the Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Architecture and Virtual Reality. He has authored two books, “Contractors CANNOT Build Your House,” and “Six Months Now, ARCHITECT for Life.” He is an Assistant Professor at Alfred State College and the Director of Education for the AIA Rochester Board of Directors. Always eager to help anyone understand the world of Architecture, he can be reached by sending an email to btoepfer@toepferarchitecture.