November 29 2011

Iconoclastic Building Materials

Most readers at Global Site Plans are familiar with structures made of concrete, wood and steel. These are the common  construction materials for the vast majority of the buildings people inhabit and experience. However, have you ever seen a structure made out of paper? Or what about water? Many architects and engineers around the world are rethinking what we construct our buildings from.

Building on Japanese building traditions, Architect Shigeru Ban is famous for working with paper tubes as a building material in structures ranging from churches to disaster relief housing. While structures like the Japan Pavilion for the Hanover 2000 Expo display Ban’s artistry as a designer, his disaster relief housing really explores the benefits of using paper as a building source.

Architecture firmDiller, Scofio, and Renfro, well known for the High Line Park project in New York City, created an experimental media pavilion, titled Blur Building, for the 2002 Swiss expo. Essentially using water vapor as an enclosing building material, The building is created by shooting filtered lake water through 13,000  nozzles to create an artificial cloud. Visitors access the building, suspended in the middle of Lake Neuchatel, by a 400 foot long ramp.

Although concrete has been used a a construction material since the roman empire, research is developing unorthodox new forms. Concrete developers, Litracon, have developed a concrete that transmits light though it. Embedded with fiber optics cables, diffused colors and shapes can be seen through the preformed blocks. Other forms of concrete absorb CO2 as it cures, light up when light-transmitting-concrete-material-apassed through an electric current, or use foam to drastically cut weight. These experimental concrete derivations may eventually be used in structures, in surprising new ways.

Although I’ve touched on a few atypical building materials there simply is no way to completely document the ingenuity of architects, engineers,urban planners, and builders. From paper to dirt to canvas,  individuals are rethinking what materials are used every day to create structures.

After considering a few of the materials cited above, what have I forgotten? What atypical building materials have you seen for yourself?

Credits: All images linked to sources.

Jordan Meerdink

Jordan Meerdink, a former GSP blogger, is a graduate of the The Ohio State University. He holds a B.S. in Architecture with a minor in studio art. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jordan inherited an early interest in mechanics and construction from his grandfather, a developer who was one of the early practitioners of prefabricated housing, and his father who is a retired store owner and highly capable D.I.Yer. Currently living in New York City, he continues to produce art and furniture with a focus on smart, ecologically responsible design. Jordan has a special concern for design that serves people outside the traditional clientele of architects, with an interest in architecture that deviates from the beaten path, ranging from Baroque churches to dismantled bomb shelters.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 at 5:19 pm and is filed under Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Design, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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