From matter to material. The many stages that lead from one state to the other include extraction or collection, followed by transformation prior to assembly, which falls within the remit of architects and their teams.
In present times, and confronted with the current assault on nature, matter is increasingly being shrouded in an aura of nobility, while transformed materials are seen as its corrupted alter ego.
It is today’s challenge to preserve raw matter for ecological reasons, but also because, in our imagination, matter is more beautiful in its natural state than once it has been reworked and transformed into a ‘material’. The processes and buildings that we present in this issue illustrate one or the other of these different states, matter used in its most ‘pure’ form (Dorte Mandrup’s thatched roof, Clément Vergély’s raw earth), but also in the most traditional manner, that is to say as the result of sucessive manipulations. However, even when it is in the form of familiar building material, this matter can be treated differently: Dutch architect Anne Holtrop works concrete in the manner of a sculptor to make artworks rather than just buildings. There are also materials that have been re-appropriated (the Cork House by Matthew Barnet Howland, Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton) and those that, at the end of the matter-to-material cycle, become waste and are re-incorporated into the building cycle just at the point where they seemed destined for landfill, as shown by the investigation in this issue.
Finally, there is matter that does not come directly from nature but that is entirely man‑made, marrying cutting-edge technology and bio‑mimesis in the hopes of creating a material that, rather than harming the environment, will blend into that which inspired it. Neri Oxman’s Mediated Matter Group laboratory at MIT is not alone in its commitment to this. Sand, wood, seaweed or fungi: everywhere, matter augurs the materials of the future.
AA 435 issue —Matters and materials— is available on our online shop.