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Materials in Architecture

MATERIALS in ARCHITECTURE Text by Rory Stott Designed by Nuphap Aunyanuphap Since the beginning of human history, construction materials and methods have been a key factor in the development of human dwellings. Each material invented has shaped a new era of architectural history. The world's first permanent buildings were probably constructed during the neolithic revolution, when humans moved from a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture. BRICK 9,000 BCE With the first settlements appearing in the Middle East, the first construction materials were likely to have been sun-baked clay bricks. Bricks are still one of the world's most common construction materials. TIMBER 8,500 BCE In 2010, archaeologists dated the remains of a wooden hut unearthed in England to around 8,500 BCE, making it the oldest recorded evidence of a timber structure. GRANITE, LIMESTONE 3,100 BCE The Ancient Egyptians were among the first civilizations to build their monumental structures in stone, primarily using locally available granite and limestone. MARBLE 650 BCE It was around 650 BCE that the Ancient Greeks began to build their temples in stone rather than timber. For them, marble was simply the locally available choice. However, it has gained an aura of majesty after the Romans, and later Renaissance builders, went to great lengths to acquire marble to emulate the beauty of Greek temples. CONCRETE 20 Though some may associate concrete with modern buildings, it has been in use since Roman times, with Vitruvius outlining a recipe of sorts in his 10 books on architecture. The Famous dome of the Pantheon was constructed in concrete and remains the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The Pantheon Rome, Italy (126 AD) GLASS 100 Glass windows were another Roman invention, with their first appearance in Roman-era Egypt. These windows, made by simply flattening blown glass, had poor optical qualities. New methods of manufacturing in the 12th and 13th centuries would produce glasses of higher quality (Broad Sheet and Crown glasses) - an important factor in the development of Gothic Cathedrals around this time. IRON 700 Though iron had been used in buildings for centuries (iron ties stabilized Roman arches, for example), the first known use of iron as a primary structural material was in late 7th century China, when the Tang Dynasty constructed a number of cast-iron pagodas. After the Tang Dynasty's demise, iron was largely forgotten as a construction material for almost 1000 years. Ganlu Temple Pagoda Jiangsu, China (1078-1085) IRON (reinvented) 1775 Iron was rediscovered as a construction material in 1775, when it was used to build the Iron Bridge in England. Iron structures were an important feature in the Industrial Revolution; the development of iron buildings would lay the groundwork for the modern steel industry. Iron Bridge Shropshire, England (1775) ENGINEERED TIMBER 1852 The first use of engineered timber was in the Church of St Luke in Formby, England, which used something resembling modern Glulam beams. However, the invention of a range of engineered timber products can be credited to Otto Hetzer, who patented a series of designs beginning in 1892. Museum of Natural History Otto Hetzer Altenburg, Germany, 1907 ASBESTOS 1866 Though Asbestos had been used for millennia, it wasn't until 1866 that it was first used as an insulating material in a building. Over the next century it began to be incorporated in a huge variety of construction materials thanks to its fire resistant and insulating qualities. However its use has dwindled, since it was shown to cause a range of health problems; it is now outlawed in many countries. STEEL 1890 Henry Bessemer invented his modern steel-making process in 1855, but it wasn't until around 1890 that the process was refined enough for construction. The first steel constructions on both sides of the Atlantic were the Rand McNally Building in Chicago and the Forth Bridge in Edinburgh. Over the ensuing years, steel began to replace iron throughout the construction industry. Eiffel Tower Alexandre Gustave Eiffel Paris, France, 1889 PVC 1926 The 20th Century saw a huge boom in the discovery and production of various plastics. One of the more important in architecture is PVC, which has come to be used in a huge range of building finishes. REINFORCED CONCRETE 1950 Reinforced concrete was invented by Joseph Monier in 1849 and patented in 1867. By combining concrete with iron (and later steel), Monier added tensile strength to concrete, which made it possible to use for structural beams. Notre Dame du Haut Le Corbusier Ronchamp, France, 1954 Reinforced concrete became the material of choice for many modern architects from the 1950s onwards. Le Corbusier Louis Kahn Kenzo Tange Oscar Niemeyer FLOAT GLASS 1959 Float glass is made by floating molten glass on a bath of molten tin. Though it had been used before, it was in 1959 when Sir Alastair Pilkington discovered a succesful way to industrialize it. This method allowed for large panes of high quality glass at a much lower price, and has contributed significantly to modern achitecture. Glass House Philip Johnson Connecticut, USA, 1949 Plastic Tensile Structures 1967 The range and availability of plastics increased dramatically in the 20th century. A PVC tensile membrane was used for Frei Otto's design for the West German Pavilion at the 1967 Expo in Montreal, Canada. West German Pavilion Frei Otto Montreal, Canada , 1967 ETFE 1982 Though it had been around for decades, it wasn't until the 1980s that German Engineer Stefan Lehnert saw ETFE's potential as a building material, allowing for buildings such as The Eden Project and the The Beijing National Aquatics Center. The Beijing National Aquatics Center PTW Architects Beijing, China, 2008 PRESENT DAY New materials are being discovered and invented every day, allowing architects greater freedom to make the designs of their imaginings reality. presented by E MATERIALS INSPIRATION, MATERIALIZED

Materials in Architecture

shared by archdaily on Feb 13
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To celebrate AD Materials turning two (months that is), we decided to dig a bit deeper into the materials we know and love. What’s their history? When did they first come to use – and where? How? ...



Nuphap Aunyanuphap


Rory Stott


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