Transforming problem houses into Dream Homes

Archtober 25: Materials

October is National Architecture Month, also known in some circles as Archtober. To commemorate the month, I am going to post a brief post every day of the month.

Materials are essential in determining the character of a place. The decision between one material or another can mean that a room functions well, or doesn’t function well. Selecting materials has a direct impact on the cost of a building. And yet…

And yet, almost all of our houses are made out of the same things: wooden sticks clad in sheet rock on the inside and wood or plaster on the outside.

Think how bland these buildings really are. Think how much experiential richness is lost because there is no texture in our buildings. We are missing the glossy smoothness of marble, the velvety roughness of concrete, and the rhythmic unit of brick.

Why are we allowing our lives to be made less enjoyable, less enriched, by the rampant use of the dullest and basest of materials? We are told it is because it makes for economical construction: but it really only means that the first costs are economical. But the lasting costs of cheap building is the cost of constant maintenance, and the even greater hardship of blandness and poverty of experience.

Most housing is being built too cheaply and is too bland. Architecture is often reduced to little more than painting boxes different colors. We seldom exploit the materials available to us to make places. Instead, we allow the developers, who build as cheaply as possible, without regard to making useful and joyful places, to dictate our expectations.

Build with real materials: Concrete, stone, brick, steel, glass, wood. Leave sheet rock and paint behind! Exploit the natural characteristics of each of these materials to make homes full of light and life, delightful to the eye and the touch, places where our lives are enriched and made joyful. That is very hard in a box made of painted chalk.

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