Architects Must Rekindle Their Relationship With Building Materials. Here’s How

Architects need to break out of the “Realm of Revit” and get to grips with real-world materials. Now there is a platform for them to do just that.

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

Find all the materials you need in no time on Source, our brand-new community marketplace for building-products. Sign up today. It’s free for architects.

The word “architect” is derived from the Greek arkhitekton, the literal translation for which is “chief builder.”

This fact reveals something about the way early architects were viewed — they were involved not only in the planning of buildings, but were closely connected to the construction process itself. Many were active craftspeople, skilled stonemasons and carpenters. Until modern times, there was little distinction between architects and engineers.Shocking to hear, I know! Architects were constantly in touch with materials and the making process, a far cry from their position within the complex hierarchy of designers, consultants, contractors and manufacturers of today.

These days, there is a tendency among some architects to get stuck inside their digital spaces, forever designing within the realm of Revit or manipulating monochromatic models in SketchUp. With a lack of construction knowledge garnered from architecture school, many young designers enter practice with few tangible experiences of the real-world materials and building-products they will ultimately depend on to make their visions a reality. Established architects possess know-how on this front, but without the resources they need to discover new material options, many still rely heavily on what they know. This stifles innovation, even in the most talented of practices.

Architizer’s material research encompasses every architectural element imagineable

“Architects fully recognize the value in considering both the aesthetic and performative aspects of the products and materials that go into their buildings,” acknowledges Architizer’s material specialist Jackie Park. “The problem is that, despite the overabundance of programs and tools that exist for architects to do their jobs, there isn’t an effective way to find and compare building-products.”

Fortunately, from that same digital space comes a new solution to this problem. Source, Architizer’s new online marketplace for building-products, allows architects to reconnect with tangible materials from the outset of a project and communicate directly with the people that make them. The platform can be used at the specification stage of a project, but also long before, when conceptual design is just beginning.

“In a similar way to how Bluebeam solved a very specific problem for architects in marking up PDFs, Source helps to make figuring out what ultimately goes into buildings easier for architects,” explains Park. “The key difference is that this not a one-size-fits-all problem — first you have to find the thing that you’re looking for and then make sense of all the options in front of you … This is where Source comes in.”

Materials for both exterior and interior uses can make or break a project; images viaBerkeley Mills,Forms+Surfaces, Platinum Construction andMark Sutton Engineering

An amazingly varied range of architecture firms with different approaches to practice are joining the community — New York–based studio Jeff Jordan Architects has recently begun searching for materials on the platform, as has the 75-plus-person Chicago-based firm Valerio Dewalt Train.

The portfolios of these practices are highly distinct, but they share at least one common trait with each other — they display a nuanced approach to materials and construction details, one that illustrates their appreciation of the raw elements that go into each building they design. These architects know that a carefully considered connection between two materials or building-products can make all the difference to the success of a project. The details are everything.

This fact makes them perfect candidates to utilize Source as a work-flow tool — identifying materials and products earlier in the design process can inform their decisions throughout, saving each firm valuable time and reducing the burden when the specifying phase arrives. “Source allows architects and manufacturers to focus on the information that matters and start to eliminate the busy work that clogs up their days,” says Park.

Source makes the task of requesting tangible material samples a breeze for architects

“I remember when a co-worker and I were both working on different projects trying to search for very similar upholstery fabric, and we were duplicating the same work the other was doing despite the fact that we literally sat next to each other. We were emailing the same manufacturers requesting the same information and samples. It was crazy really — we all collectively felt that there had to be a better way!”

That better way is now coming to fruition in the shape of Source. With the ability to log selections for each project, architects can build up a priceless library of information on performance and aesthetics for every building material imaginable. This information can be made visible to and usable by every architect in a firm, offering in-depth insights into building-products for everyone from principal to intern.

Over time, this tool has the capability to transform architects’ mentalities when it comes to material, so that — like the chief builders that came before them — they view that real-world stuff as an intrinsic part of the design process, from concept to completion. Ultimately, materials can make or break a project, and Source provides a way to reconnect with them on a fundamental level.

Connect with the perfect building-product manufacturers and find every material you need to bring your project to life — sign up for Source today.