Choosing materials is one of the most interesting processes in the field of architecture. Architecture is not just about visualizing, conceptualizing, and designing but also implementing. To implement that concept or design from a paper to a piece of land, materials play an important role in narrating a story of design. Though as architects we usually visualize at the designing stage, material or spatial quality of the space with the materials. This helps us strengthen the design concept, adding experiences , also adds scale to the building form. Each material has a specific characteristic and experience of its own, which at times overlap with each other. At such a point, it’s the designer’s decision, visualization, and conceptualization of design, which becomes the guiding principle. But when it comes to communicating and selecting this material with the clients, architects have adapted a few techniques to ease this process.
1. Physical properties
Each and every material has its own properties like strength, durability, density, porosity, structural properties, color, texture, appearance, shape, finish etc. These properties are taken into account while choosing the materials. There are chances that these characteristics overlap amongst the materials. Here the conceptual understanding of the project guides the selection process.
The aesthetics of the project also plays an important role in selecting the material. At times it is necessary to cater to the aesthetics of the project. In such scenarios, materials are chosen as per the concept. For example, if the idea is to provide free space at the ground level, the materials chosen will be one with minimal visual impact, the building will be lifted, with steel columns at the ground level instead of concrete columns. Here steel columns appear visually fragile compared to concrete.
3. User experience
Each of us have some or the other association with each and every material. Some materials are soft porous but appear to be hard and rough. This gives us architects an upper hand by achieving an aspired or visualized association. In this point, it is important to set aside the client’s perceptions and fulfill the architect’s vision.
Each and every material has a specific time course in manufacturing and installing it. It takes a particular time duration to finish a construction of a project, at such a point, the right choice of material is important. The architect here has a duty to use materials which quicken the construction process and also restrict the chances of cost increment. The more slower the construction process, the more costlier the project, as the client has to play the over price.
This factor dominates the most in the selection process, the budget becomes the guiding factor, and the materials are chosen accordingly. This discussion is necessary to be conducted between the client and the architect in order to save our effort. What’s the need of using materials which the client might not use? For example, if a luxurious fixture is installed, the client will make an extra effort in taking care of that fixture, minimizing the use of it. This questions the synchronization between the two, in any case, the architect’s decision should not be overpowering the client’s decisions. Sometimes a middle ground can be created by using a substitute of the expensive material. By doing so, the experience or the spatial quality one wants to deliver can be achieved within the client’s budget.
The context plays an important role in designing, as architects it is important to respond to the context in which we are designing. Sometimes materials are chosen in order to merge with the context, come materials respond to the context through the climatic conditions of the context. Here historic significance of the context using the same material an architectural language is created. Context also refers to the availability of material in the nearby location.
As users of a space, we need to make a space hospitable, where hygiene is crucial. This increases the client’s responsibility in maintaining the project. For example, if a finish needs regular touch-up, then it becomes a barrier for the client to get it redone at frequent intervals. This also contributes in increasing the cost of the project.
8. Environmental Impact
When we are on the verge of extinction of natural resources, it is important to use materials which conserve these resources rather than exploiting them. Each material has its impact on the environment at manufacturing, installing and demolition stages. It is important to choose materials wisely to preserve the environment, at least try reducing its impact on the environment.
This factor is totally based on the theme of the project. If the idea is to create a warm experience in the interiors, the exterior is mostly kept cool. This contrast created by the material palette, gives an experience to the client.
This factor is interrelated with contrast, along with the color, the texture of the material also delivers a spatial experience to the user.