How does material purity fit into our dirty new world?

When we hear the word authenticity, how do we understand it?  Initially, my mind jumped to essentially “the right use”.  I then questioned, how do we know if the use of a material is correct?  And my answer for that is its “most used manifestation”.  However, never has a material been used most often as it was originally invented.  I think that in architecture, we are transitioning out of a phase that has lasted for all of history before us.  Phase one, so to speak, consisted of the invention of dependable materials and the application of them in an obsessive manner; an examination of the material as something pure that has a finite answer, such as Louis Kahn described the use of brick.  Phase two is the creative application of materials to solve new problems.  If you dig deeply into it, we recycle and shred wood, and then repurpose it all the time as wood, but it is not wood in its pure, authentic form.

The consumer society that we live in today has far exceeded any measure of it in prior history.  People want things, because we are almost told that not wanting something makes you boring, and having something unique makes you interesting and relevant.  I do not think this is healthy, but it is probably the most powerful and overwhelming version of groupthink that we have, at least in the United States.  Today, I think material authenticity is becoming overshadowed by a conceptual authenticity.  A material used beautifully in its most traditionally practiced methods projects an unparalleled purity, but we do not live in a pure world anymore.


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