Materials – in Depth

Find 5 examples of designers, architects or artists whose work aligns with the ‘Truth to Materials’ phrase.

Shigeru Ban is known as the sustainable paper architect, famously known to provide immediate emergency relief to victims of natural disaster. Behind the cardboard aesthetics lie deep humanitarianism and high-tech aspirations, it is this environmental and socially concerned dimension that wins the hearts and minds of the fans of Ban. (Williams, 2015)

Ban is known for his active humanitarian work across the world. In 2018 he met with refugees in Kenya’s Kalobeyei refugee settlement and examined the structures that are currently housing thousands of displaced people, in response to the brief, he proposed a range of houses made from different materials, including paper tubes, timber, mud bricks, and interlocking soil blocks, making him an architect of Truth to Materials. (Stevens, 2018)

Tadao Ando is a Japenese architect who incorporates into architecture numerous ‘scenes’ in the process of giving direct expression to materials, simplifying forms, and pursuing an integrated style. He looks to introduce nature into a man-made order and to create a place where encounters between human beings or between a human being and a material object may take place. One example is the Wrightwood 659 exhibition space in Chicago.(Peluso,2018) Here, the entire interior of the four-storey apartment building was removed and a new steel and reinforced-concrete structure was erected within the perimeter masonry shell. A concrete staircase that wraps around a pillar of the same material was added by him and provides the primary circulation up the atrium. Glass railings reflect light from the nearby windows, while wooden boards on the ceiling soften the otherwise cold materiality. Many of the floors include galleries with architectural models made by students, alongside drawings and other archival materials. Tadao Ando turned an old brick building into an architecture-focused exhibition centre. (Cogley, 2018)

One of the most highly regarded architects of the 20th century, Walter Gropius, was one of the founding fathers of Modernism, and the founder of the Bauhaus, the German “School of Building” that embraced elements of art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography in its design, development and production. (Team, 2019) The Bauhaus has a glass facade on the load-bearing framework which allows a view of the interior workings. The design does not visually amplify the corners of the building, which creates an impression of transparency. Gropius designed the various sections of the building differently, separating them consistently according to function. He positioned the wings asymmetrically; the form of the complex can thus be grasped only by moving around the building. There is no central view. (Bauhaus dessau, s.d)

Here is minimalist side table designed by Berlin-based studio, New Tendency. The studio applies Modernist design principles onto contemporary objects of the everyday. In Bauhaus tradition, New Tendency creates products characterised by conceptual design, clean aesthetics and functional form, handcrafted in Germany. The piece combines New Tendency’s conceptual design, clean aesthetics, functional form with high-tech craftsmanship in its purest form. (Leibal, 2018)

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was a french artist and scupltor, who developed a primitive style of direct carving allowing the innate qualities of the stone, marble or wood to show through simple forms, respecting the block, and often polished to bring out the colour and grain.  This ethos of simple forms which also used nature as a source of inspiration, particularly for pattern, in the strong belief that art and craft enhances people’s lives. He showed an instinctive understanding of his material, its right use and possibilities. (Gardengallery, 2015)

Image result for henri gaudier-brzeska
Fig.15 Crouching Fawn, 1913
Image result for henri gaudier-brzeska
Fig.16. Red Stone Dancer, 1913-14


Austin Williams (2015) The Architectural Review (accessed 26.5.19)

Philip Stevens, (2018) Designboom (accessed 26.5.19)

Salvatore Peluso (2018) Domus (accessed 26.5.19)

Bridget Cogley (2018) . dezeen (accessed 26.5.19)

Bauhaus dessau (date unknown) Bauhaus Building (accessed 26.5.19)

Ad Editorial Team (2019) Arch Daily (accessed 26.5.19)

Leibal (2018) Leibal (accessed 26.5.19)

Gardengallery (2015) The Garden Gallery (accessed 26.5.19)


Fig.1-4 Shigeru-Ban settlement in Kenya (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.5-8 Wrightwood 659 exhibition space in Chicago (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.9-12 The Bauhaus 1927 (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.13-14 A stainless steel side table, Meta (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.15 Crouching Fawn (accessed 26.5.19)

Fig.16 Red Stone Dancer (accessed 26.5.19)

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