How building materials influence architectural design


When constructing a new building, it’s vital that the materials used are appropriate for the setting and that the latest materials technology is utilized. That’s because building material choice is perhaps the most important influencer of a construction’s aesthetic, and it’s also ultimately one of the factors that will come into the play when the building is priced up and eventually sold.

Ensuring you choose a design that will add something new and interesting to the local skyline is important, while it’s also necessary to ensure that you also uphold your environmental responsibilities by choosing some eco-friendly material options. Here are some of the most important things to consider, as well as a look at how building materials have affected design in American buildings and designs both old and new.

New choices

Decades ago, there was much less choice when it came to the role materials played in building design and the construction industry. There were far fewer building materials around to choose from, and the availability of the best materials was often restricted to prestigious buildings. But these days, just one cursory walk around a city reveals the diversity of materials on offer. From skyscrapers made predominantly from glass to more innovative and natural materials, there’s so much more to use – and the result is a world of buildings with different aesthetics and city skylines with a rich diversity of landmarks.

Modern marvels

Looking to modern American designs, it’s obvious there’s a huge range of materials in use. Perhaps one of the most innovative modern urban buildings is the elegant, transparent headquarters of the high-end Diane von Furstenberg (DvF) fashion brand in New York City’s Meatpacking District. The geometric, glass-heavy design would have been unthinkable in the days of New York City’s original construction boom.

But by adding an injection of chic design, buildings like the DvF offices have influenced building material diversity in cities across the world. And while cities may be the best place for side-by-side comparisons to take place, exposed brickwork and naturally-resourced buildings constructed in the countryside can also be modern and forward-thinking despite the lack of other constructions nearby for comparison.

The importance of concrete

No in-depth look at the influence of the choice of material on a building’s eventual fate would be complete without looking at how concrete has shaped the architectural world. As concrete entrepreneur Jan Berkowitz has discovered, there is a lot of demand for this material because of its versatility and useful features. Concrete has been around for centuries, and its popularity in the modern day is largely down to the fact that it is, quite simply, so strong and durable. Few other building materials can be produced as efficiently and provide such strength to a structure, and that makes it ideal for designs of everything from pavements to skyscrapers.

Looking after the environment

As the twenty-first century marches on, it’s more important than ever to think about being responsible with the use of the planet’s natural resources. Living in the shadow of a constant debate about climate change means that we’re all very aware of how important it is to be eco-friendly in all aspects of life, and construction is no exception. Some building materials are much more environmentally friendly than others, and when it comes to navigating architectural regulations designed with the environment in mind, it certainly pays to do your research and work out which materials are most suitable.

It’s believed that the volume of natural resources taken up by buildings rose by twenty-three times during the last century, which means there’s a lot of catching up for environmentally minded architects to do. But luckily, there’s lots of choices. Bamboo, for example, is sometimes posited as an alternative to concrete, while more unusual materials like mycelium – made from the roots of fungi – is also gaining traction.

The world is full of diverse and different buildings, and everything from the era in which a building is constructed to the location in which it finds itself being built can impact the materials used as part of the construction. But there’s one thing in common: from top modern buildings in global cities to environmentally-friendly buildings made from more unusual materials like bamboo, the impact of the materials used will undeniably and permanently alter the appearance, utility, and appeal of any construction.