Material World: 10 Standout Projects putting Materials Front and Center

By foregrounding wood, brick, stone, metal, concrete and glass, Architizer’s A+Awards are fostering new approaches to architectural material.

Gavin Moulton Gavin Moulton

Have you designed a sports facility that deserves celebration? Consider entering the one of several plus categories in the 9th Annual A+Awards. Remember to submit your projects before April 23rd to be in the running!

Conveying the essence of material while pushing its limits presents both a technical and aesthetic challenge to architects. When sculpting in stone, Isamu Noguchi described this process as a search for “final reality.” Many architects have established reputations by focusing on the relationship between a single material and form—some notable examples being the structural genius of Eladio Dieste’s undulating brick and Oscar Niemeyer’s seemingly weightless concrete in Brasilia.

Architizer celebrates material-oriented architecture through the Plus Awards categories of Wood, Brick, Stone, Metal, Concrete, and Glass. Amongst this 2020’s finalists, the following ten projects stood out for their unique takes on these various materials.

Drawing on tradition, local village typologies inspired llLab’s San Sa Village in rural China. Likewise, António Costa Lima Arquitectos reinterpreted traditional Portuguese terracotta roofs in an intricate brick latticework. More experimentally, the Dutch practice UNStudio created a tripartite glass façade that flows down several stories of a traditional Amsterdam canal home, setting a flagship retail store apart from the competition. Finally, SETUParchitecture utilized the smooth blocks of pale travertine to imbue a Tehran office building facade with bold elegance.

architectural material architectural material Restroom in the Mountains by Atelier Scale, Yantai, China architectural material Restroom in the Mountains by Atelier Scale, Yantai, ChinaRestroom in the Mountains by Atelier Scale, Yantai, China
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Plus-Architecture +Wood

In China, the Kunyu Mountain National Park commissioned a low-impact restroom that could provide facilities for visitors without comprising the natural setting. In response to this brief, Atelier Scale designed a series of modules with slanted roofs that cluster together at the edge of a forest meadow. Reminiscent of the wood-clad architecture and jagged rooflines of Sea Ranch in northern California, sandblasted glass faces the restrooms’ corridors; the frosted windows are nestled beneath a layer of sticks. Together, this unique combination of materials filters the light while providing privacy for the visitors.

architectural material Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, Australia architectural material Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, AustraliaPingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, Australia
Project of the Year, 2020 A+Awards
Finalist, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Wood
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports and Recreation – Gyms & Recreation Centers

The architectural materiality of wood takes center stage at the Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Center. If asked to imagine a multi-function sports court, few would immediately picture the timber-clad recreational interior that has brought accolades to this small Australian town. One thousand tons of Yellow Stringybark, a species of Eucalyptus, were locally milled for the project. Beyond the courtyard, this lumber is used in outdoor corridors and for most of the façade. The design is reminiscent of storied century-old courts basketball courts in the Midwestern United States, and it represents the important role of sport in the Australian Wheatbelt.

Altinho by António Costa Lima Arquitectos, Lisbon, Portugal
Popular Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Brick 

Until recently, Lisbon has turned its back to its riverfront, and it is now reconsidering the belt of industrial buildings that line its shore. This private home literally builds upon an existing warehouse: a new iron and brick structure emerges from the historic building’s smooth walls. A special construction system allows the red prismatic volume to stand independent of the warehouse perimeter, respecting the urban morphology by retaining its original shell. The red brick and pitched roof harken counter-balance the industrial aesthetic by referencing these typical residential elements. Below, the garage and library also feature stunning brick vaulting.

architectural material San Sa Village by LLLab., Beigou Village, China architectural material San Sa Village by LLLab., Beigou Village, ChinaSan Sa Village by LLLab., Beigou Village, China
Finalist, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Brick

LLLab. architects harnessed architectural materiality as a uniting element as they distilled the characteristics of traditional villages into their new resort outside of Beijing. By intensely focusing on human-scaled design, the project aims to combine a respectable level of privacy with ample opportunities for creating community and neighborliness. To this end, different types of brick are applied throughout the various residences, streets and courtyards; they unit the independent units at the same time as evoking the long, shared history of the village itself.

architectural material SOFTSTONE by SETUParchitecture, Tehran, Iran
SOFTSTONE by SETUParchitecture, Tehran, Iran
Popular Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Stone

This mid-rise building hosts offices and is constructed from local travertine stone. The layered masonry facade makes an expressionistic statement that is more commonly associated with brick. This unique approach with extruding pieces of stone maximizes the use of smaller cuts that would otherwise be discarded; this exemplifies the firm’s broader design strategy. By adapting digital techniques and production technologies according to geocultural specificities, their aim to minimize waste and transform typology is expressed materially.

architectural material Casa Cajueira by Wilbert Das, Trancoso, Brazil architectural material Casa Cajueira by Wilbert Das, Trancoso, BrazilCasa Cajueira by Wilbert Das, Trancoso, Brazil
Finalist, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Concrete

Trancoso is an emerging tourism destination in Bahia. Dutch architect Wilbert Dos’s designed the concrete Casa Cajueria to embrace the tropical environment. With a plan that opens to a central courtyard with a pool, the sculpturally expressive concrete fireplace and green statement staircase are particularly memorable. Built by local craftsmen from the area who utilized as many local materials as possible, this 12,000 square foot home merges contemporary aesthetics with mid-century Brazilian modernism.

architectural material P.C. Hooftstraat 138 by UNStudio, Amsterdam, Netherlands
P.C. Hooftstraat 138 by UNStudio, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Glass

Projecting glass windows flow over two stories to create a striking façade for a new flagship store in a historic area of Amsterdam. Also known as “The Looking Glass,” this retail property’s facade celebrates textiles, both in form and function. Three curved glass panels flow down from the brick facade’s upper floors, mimicking transparent fabric as if it were billowing in the wind. Although dramatic, the intervention works in harmony with the historic brick building and emphasizes the transparent glass’s inherent qualities.

architectural material architectural material White Deer Plain Mountain Resort Hotel by Huiyimingcheng, Xi’an China architectural material White Deer Plain Mountain Resort Hotel by Huiyimingcheng, Xi’an ChinaWhite Deer Plain Mountain Resort Hotel by Huiyimingcheng, Xi’an China
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Details – Plus-Architecture +Metal

Located at the center of the White Deer Plain in Xi ‘an, China, this project saw the complete remodeling of a resort hotel, with the aim of better-integrating visitors with the surrounding landscape. The first step of the expansion consisted of nearly demolishing the pre-existing building, which was stripped down to its concrete frame. The hotel lobby is now located behind a thick wooden veil—or a bamboo colonnade, depending on how you look at it. Set on the hillside across the way, a metal-clad addition forms a strong material contrast, with its deeply recessed openings capturing the drama of the ever-changing light and shadow of the site.

architectural material Spa Pavilion by smartvoll, Hinterbrühl, Austria architectural material Spa Pavilion by smartvoll, Hinterbrühl, Austria
Spa Pavilion by smartvoll, Hinterbrühl, Austria

Every surface of the spa pavilion is encrusted with Rauris quartzite. The stone has unique thermal properties, making it a particularly appropriate choice of material for the program at hand. The building’s volume consists of intersecting planes, emphasized by the extensive use of heavy quartzite inside and out. The sum is an enthralling material presence that could be described as Mondrian-meets-Peter Zumthor. When properly cut, masonry has the power to imbue a project with a storied monumentality; coupled with its placement in a tranquil area dedicated to bathing, the architects produce a private temple of wellness.

Consider entering the one of several plus categories in the 9th Annual A+Awards. Remember to submit your projects before April 23rd to be in the running!

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