The Material Language of Building

A vital component to any architect’s education is learning how to effectively utilize building materials as carriers of architectural meaning; the development of a coherent tectonic language is fundamental to teaching architecture. This requires a careful understanding of the most basic components of architecture, its language, its words. The words are composed of materials, the sentences written in a building’s tectonics and detailing. Learning how to speak is the first step towards writing poetry. Learning the building art’s material language is the first step to creating architecture. Many academics and practitioners who are attracted to design build share a common belief that the materials and methods of construction matter, and are essential to an architect’s education. Latent in this line of inquiry is that if these elements are significant, that significance should be made manifest in the final, constructed reality of the building. This conception runs strongly counter to the direction of most contemporary architecture, in which seamlessness, weightlessness, and the suppression of materiality are ascendant. With these ideas in mind, how should an architect be trained? This article will explore one method, using design build pedagogy to engage architecture students in a patient search for their own tectonic philosophy.

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