Saturday, March 1, 2008

Materiality: Textural Classes

Like color, the use of texture is an adaptable design strategy to transform a material and expand its range of visual and functional characteristics. There are a number of ways to take existing material and provide an added dimension through manipulation of texture through patterning, perforating, and articulating.

Digging back through the archives, I discovered a theme of material texture in a number of projects. These span large-scale high-rise facades, to simple boxes, to landscape elements. A December post on Atelier A+D aptly sums up the theme, in 'Not Your Grandmother's Lace'. A number of projects experimented with variety of openings, as well as taking this as an opportunity to experiment with lighting.

O-14 Commercial Tower in Dubai by Reiser + Umemoto is a taller project with a more coarse-grain perforation, that sets it off from the orthagonal surrounding buildings and offer variable-sized penetrations for windows.

:: image via Atelier A+D

The Airspace Tokyo by Beige Architecture and Proces2 veers into striated organic forms. Coolboom refers to this as "...a layer of artificial vegetation."

:: image via Atelier A+D

Projects take different forms, and can be abstract, or take patterns that reference place or culture. The United Arab Emirates Shanghai Expo Pavilion by Foster and Partners evokes patterns of Islamic art and culture.

:: image via Atelier A+D

Another widely publicized project that uses cultural textures (which from reactions tended to split into poles of loveit or hate it) was the Polish Pavilion for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. 'Incision Skin' features a folded origami of planes representative of folk-art paper cutouts. The interactivity and lighting provide some very compelling imagery.

:: image via BLDGBLOG

:: Polish Pavilion Lighting - image via The Design Blog

The very literal and definitive patterning is interesting, but does veer into potential for over-simplified and stereotypical iterations. As Michelle Linden in Atelier A+D points out, regarding the use of arabesques: "...its now starting to worry me, that perhaps these lacy skins are a bit of a cop out... While I recognize the excitement in using new technology and old imagery to create a new building form, I'm concerned that its becoming the easy solution, particularly in the case of western architects designing in the middle east."

The texture does not need to be cultural, but can be more artistic, or abstracted. Another more small-scale version entitled 'Perforate the Box' comes via Architecnophilia. The result is an elegant project called 'Sakura' by Mount Fuji Architects plays with small holes in metal panels with amazing results:

:: images via Architechnophilia

Site scale applications can augment building forms, such as Herzog & de Meuron's 40 Bond project, with patterns derived from graffiti tag forms. The layering of texture of the foreground screen and the more subtle building texture is a pretty stunning juxtaposition.

:: image via Archidose

This use of interesting materials is slowly creeping into landscape architecture, and the use of more manipulated textures is creating some good results. A good starting point for option are the companions of Transmaterial and Transmaterial 2 series by Princeton Architectural Press, which offers some great examples of materials that 'Redefine our Physical Environment'.

These architectural solutions provide some good fodder for landscape architectural design. There seems to be a conservatism that falls back on the widely adaptable but somewhat limiting use plant materials - as well as wood, stone, and concrete which become the major ingredients in exterior designs. Adding metals and synthetics, and juxtaposing these in new interesting ways with the typical landscape designers palette, including more architectural plantings - offers myriad opportunities to expand and contemporize urban landscapes - making them more fitting and adaptable with the urban context.

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