An Argument for Materialism

Hasan Hamdan

Architect and Urban designer

We argue for materialism to be a deeply rooted architectural tradition, a tradition that has been employed in many paradigm design house projects, and a strategy that has been deployed to shift the aesthetics of the institutionalization in the idea of a bank building, to test the possibility for a bank to have a degree of spirituality.

The following might challenge architects who do not understand the role of surface effects in the larger discourse of architecture or think of material to be a superficial rendering of architecture.

In this article we will muse on Jeffery Kipnis’s paper “Cunning of cosmetics” form El Croquis 84 published in 1997, in which he projects his personal reflections on the Architecture of Herzog and De Meuron, we will take Kipnis’s formalist reading as a point of departure, Kipnis demystifies through his reading of HdM architecture the methods they employed to achieve an intellectual practice of materialism, and I quote “ HdM offered flagrantly simple Cartesian volumes”, He adds “HdM indulged contentedly in expedient, reductive planning. HdM’s fixation on the cosmetic, on fastidious details eye-catching materials and stunning facades …”. This article is not an attempt to compare the Capital bank building to HdM work, but a simple explanation for the traditions followed in our design methods.

Simply and even if it seems to come in the negative sense of the word, those are the techniques to successfully provide a foreground position our materialist experiments, we lean towards reductionism and sometimes oversimplification of planning and form, to increase our attention to the aesthetic of architectural details, and the possible intellectual capacity of material signs.

In the Capital Bank project, we aim to shift the distribution of the sensible information, to challenge again the idea of the bank as a monumental institution, to rather a spiritual boutique. The article will focus on the Capital Bank building skin, it is noticeable that the materials are not challenging the bank on the level of monotony, the monotony is even more exaggerated by a pale monotonous color scheme, the building was split into multiple masses, yet those masses were to be expressed by three different material assignments, White stone, clear glass and translucent concrete. The translucent concrete here is doing all sorts of effects, it is meant to challenge how this building presents itself in day and night, and the capacity to hide its internal structure during the day, and make it seam accessible in the night, and finally it celebrates the inhabitants as abstract shadows that become part of the façade facing the main street.

The play of Solid, translucent, and transparent in Capital bank building is a negotiation of the problem of the defensive monumental building as an institution, and an invitation to allow the material surface formal effects to force another institutional narrative. 

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