The Jerusalem Seminar in Architecture
Previous Conferences // o 2004: Material & Craft
Theme Statment by Cecil Balmond

This seminar will highlight a fundamental aspect of architecture - material - and the craft allied to that, which influences the basic shape and character of a building. Material substance, its connectivity, past typologies and future potential will be the subject of intense investigation.

Material literally forms architecture. Stone lintels once limited spans but defined the close rhythm of the Greek Temple. Wall and slab elements of masonry and timber were the essential building elements that led to compartmentation as the basic characteristic of an architectural plan for centuries. With the invention of reinforced concrete and steel, structures could be built as frames allowing façades to have large openings which could be glazed - a negotiation between in and out took place - and skyscrapers with transparent sides then elevated the horizon to every floor. More recently, fabric membranes have merged the vertical and horizontal into undulations that improvise space. With the power of computers, new geometries generate complex shapes that provoke hybrid inventions of existing materials or the creation of new ones to articulate the potential of these forms.

The use of material implies as well the interdependency of a team, from the expertise of the welder or stone mason and technician to the specialised suppliers and contractors who work in conjunction with an architect and engineer to arrive at a desired solution. The notion of material means collaboration.

Brick, timber, concrete and glass also each have an inherent language of connection and detail, which defines a building in further layers of sophistication. The detail appropriate to a specific material evolves its own ornamentation and describes notions of connectivity - seamless, or jointed as assemblies of discrete parts. So beyond the obviousness of shape and the literalness of structure, material is fundamental and a catalyst in the evolution of architecture.

The Jerusalem Seminar in Architecture is pleased to announce the participation of the following architects, designers, engineers, theorists and technical experts in our forthcoming conference on Material and Craft to be held 16 - 18 May 2004 at the International Convention Centre, Jerusalem. The conference will be chaired by Cecil Balmond (England).
Building site for row of riverside apartment blocks in Cambridge.
Photograph: Andrew Dunn.

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