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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Grant, AIA


Updated: Oct 31, 2022

Elemental, essential and grounding. These are words that we use to characterize noble materials. Today noble materials refer to elements utilized within the man-made environment that are of-the-earth, not overly processed and are represented genuinely. Often these things are found in nature in their raw form. Stone, earth, clay, silk. These items and their derivations are examples of the noble.

And Before?

In mediaeval history, alchemists attempted to transmute base metals into noble metals, particularly gold, due to its perceived curative properties, up to and including inducing immortality. The perfect synthesis of human body and soul were thought to result from this alchemical magnum opus.

“ALCHEMY; The process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained”
~C.J. Skamarakas

In ancient Japan, molten gold was used to repair pottery. This practice gave reverence to that which as old or historical. When the pottery was broken and mended with gold, it became more precious. Thus, the old things in the world gained, rather than lost, value.

Noble materials teach us a lesson. There is tremendous value in that which has the quality of being what it is. Architects focus effort on distilling problems down to their essential concerns. In our trade, these concerns are typically physical. We find delight in materiality that does not try to duplicate a thing that it intrinsically isn’t. Striping out the pseudo representation clarifies and creates a sincere message: Be inspired.

Be inspired by the Earth. Be inspired by the mountain, its roughness, its texture. Be inspired by the water trickling through a fountain. Be inspired by the flame within the hearth. Be inspired by the ancient. Be inspired by the new. Notice when nature combines an intricate texture and subtle movement. It is dance; it is rhythm. It is the genesis of ideation. It is noble.

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