A Brief History of Construction Materials

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“There exists a dynamic exchange between the life of matter and the matter of our lives.”

-Reiser and Umemeto

Each material has its own unique way of acting and reacting with its environment. As designers we are responsible for creating the appropriate expression for each condition. Whether this is executed through scale, patterns, joinery, or structural articulation depends on the nature of the material itself. However, the complexity and sheer volume of today’s innovative products can make it seem like we need to be scientists to understand the behavior of many contemporary materials. This entry is part one of a series on unraveling that myth. As a designer by day and aspiring materials scientist by night, I hope to give some insight into how new materials behave and inspire ideas about how we can express these behaviors through design. In lieu of the 45th anniversary of FRCH, I thought it would be appropriate to start by taking a look back at the history of traditional building materials, and what was primarily available to work with when the firm started in 1968.

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