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Monday, June 01, 2009

Book Review: Materiology

Materiology: The Creative Industry's Guide to Materials and Technologies by Daniel Kula and Élodie Ternaux
Frame Publishers/Birkhäuser, 2009
Hardcover, 344 pages

For designers, materials are an integral part of an end-product's success, be it a building, piece of furniture, clothing or some other artifact. This is obvious and needs no further explication, but the information pertaining to the broad range of matter used in the design trades is overwhelming, at best. A number of resources collect materials and products to help designers choose a palette or specify ready-mades for various applications, but these guides tend to be very particular, to stake out a specific place in the greater scheme of things. This new reference tackles various materials all the way from their sources to their outcomes, documenting the processes that shape designs via their fabrication, thereby aiding the designer in making better choices and hopefully better designs.

Three main chapters document the three primary aspects of materials: material families, a catalog of over 100 materials, and techniques for processing materials. The first feeds the second, which is then worked by one or more of the processes of the third. Combination and assemblage is beyond the scope of the book, at the mercy of the designer's imagination. Here the focus is purely on working with materials; concrete, stone, textiles, plastics, wood, glass, metals, etc. Just about all of the material families (minus leather) find use in architectural projects, though many of the materials cataloged are clearly outside the scope of buildings. Granted that this book is aimed at designers in the broadest sense, the value of the book for architects is still high, particularly for students and younger professionals. The descriptions are clear, if dry, with excellent illustrations of everything from stone quarrying to bending pipe. It is the latter that makes the book most appealing, as it makes the content more memorable and easier to find while flipping through the book, though excellent cross-referencing is also included. Furthermore, tables, charts and pros/cons for the different materials and processes help designers make decisions at the exciting yet crucial steps when ideas start to take physical shape.

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