Using Materials to tell a Story (An Architectural Essay)

Meaningful architecture, for me, always relays a story. It’s fundamental that it conveys something about a place, a specific time, a person or a family. It must have an opinion, an attitude. Architecture doesn’t have to be an explicit rendering of that idea; rather it can be discovered over time while living in a structure or just by knowing a little more today than yesterday.

My personal design process always begins with my asking the question, “What is the story I’m trying to tell?” Architecture can convey historical ideas, ideas about craft, personal tastes, an attitude toward light (or dark), the forest canopy, a city skyline. This seed of an idea can become the design engine for the project, a reference point for decisions made along the way. Most architects refer to this as a parti, but the term is far less important than the actual concept. One of the most basic and accessible means of conveying this idea is through the use of material.
In this video I use three materials: stone, wood and concrete to illustrate how materials can imbue architecture with meaning, both implicit and explicit.

Featured Architects:
Peter Zumthor
Ensamble Studio
Tadao Ando
Zone 4 Architects, LLC
Michael Ryan Architects
Sage Modern
Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC
E. Cobb Architects
Cornerstone Architects
Mell Lawrence Architects
Renzo J. Nakata Architects
Bluetime Collaborative
Augustus Jones
AR Design Studio Ltd.
Kate Johns

Please watch: “Architectural Drawing Tutorial | My process + settings”


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  1. Aung Pan Oo
    August 11, 2016

    Great videos. Thank you.

  2. ENDUR3NC3
    August 11, 2016

    Very Well done 😀

  3. Timur Bayram
    August 12, 2016

    can you please tell in next video about flooring in industrial and bauhaus design?

  4. Mark Masi
    August 15, 2016

    Another beautifully narrated facet of creating beautiful buildings. Really look forward to these. Thank you.

  5. Elrond Burrell
    August 15, 2016

    Good picks!

  6. Divyarjun Singh
    October 22, 2016

    @30×40 you are talking on contexts of zumthor , ando and ???

  7. simon miles
    December 6, 2016

    I've been binge watching your channel. I just wanted to thank you for such a amazing, well thought out and produced series. Thank you

  8. Mark Scott
    December 21, 2016

    Well Done, The Textured Concrete Section was excellent…thanks

  9. Brian Eddy
    March 19, 2017

    This is a beautiful piece. The information is high yield and I appreciate this very much.

  10. MaZEEZaM
    March 23, 2017

    I particularly like the first design.

  11. Shelter Helper
    May 10, 2017

    Your video's are so informative. Thank you. I watch during the day when I work from home in the hope that some of the information trickles into my brain :o)

  12. fatym kiwi
    May 23, 2017

    I am a first year architecture student and I have an insatiable thirst to know and learn as much as possible. I have so many ideas but I need to learn how to translate them into technically understandable things

  13. Kosta Hantov
    June 8, 2017

    Thank you for your super clean and informative videos, sir!

    I've always imagined that stone/brick walls have a different "time look" than a concrete or plaster wall for example. I mean that when you look at a stone or brick or wall you can feel how it's been built stacking stones on top of each other or when you see a concrete or plaster wall there's no gradation, it's like made in 1 step. I don't know if I'm saying anything that makes sense but it does in my head. Materials have different time…. states..? I don't know I got confused.. 🙂

  14. kris schirmer - designer + artist
    June 9, 2017


  15. How I made
    August 8, 2017

    soooo imformative esp the way you narrate. simple straight to the point no distractions. why you only have 50k subs is beyond me. keep up the great work!

  16. Marsha Creary
    September 25, 2017

    I'm glad that addressed the fact that the use of materials can be subjective. As an architect do you spend a great deal of time listening to the client's needs for the space in relationship to the landscape surrounding the perspective home?

  17. Raymond Sawe
    October 12, 2017

    Is it possible to combine rammed earth with the board style of board formed concrete?

  18. Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy
    October 16, 2017

    It is really an impressive presentation about the importance of communication between us, the users, and the building. Very well analysed and clearly presented.

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