The Value of Materials

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“What is worth more, a kilogram of stone or a kilogram of gold? The question is doubtless ridiculous. But only to a merchant. The artist would reply: to me all materials are equally precious.” Thus Adolf Loos in his essay “Building Materials”. Frank Lloyd Wright, in one of his lectures, was even more explicit and forthright: “Ladies and gentlemen, do you know what a brick is? It’s trivial and costs 11 cents; it’s common and valueless but possesses a peculiar characteristic. Give me this brick and it will be worth its weight in gold.”

How can the worth of a material to the architect be measured? What are the criteria by which architects select the materials for their buildings? What counts more: the costliness of a material or the expenditure represented in its workmanship. How low-end or how high-end should a building material be? Does such a distinction have any significance at all?

Whether the point of departure is decided by limited resources or the treasured status of an existing building, each of the five guest speakers in the department’s lecture series have found their distinctive answers to these questions. They all possess the gift of the alchemist and know how to ingeniously and intelligently transmute inconspicuous materials into precious architectural objects.

The lecture series examines the topic from different perspectives and provides insights into thinking and the work of Toni Gironès, Philipp Esch, Martin und Elisabeth Boesch, and Wang Shu.

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