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Material Time

In our work the materiality of architecture is thought to be a mediator between human, environment, time and mind, to eventually overcome materiality.


Material in architecture is generally associated with its individual distinctive main characteristic. Concrete, for example, is often referred to as “cold” and “hard”, whereas timber is described as a “warm” material. Steel, glass and aluminium are commonly associated with modernity, technology and seen as “cold”. Metals commonly are seen as related to technology and felt as cold. Copper, in contrary, is often described as “warm”, which might result from its coloration and also its softness. Generally, the reduced description of material often undermines the ambiguity and true meaning of materiality. Architectural material is often employed based on or with fundamental focus on expressing its preconceived identity, leaving architectural intervention largely pre-defined by surfaces, with space and material devaluated of their opportunities and possibilities.

To reflect upon the general affiliations of materials, we comprehend concrete to be a tactile material in its haptic sensation and appearance based on its production methodologies, for instance with timber formwork construction. It can appear soft in form due to its mouldability, principally as concrete in construction state is a soft material and only hardens post production. Concrete as thermal mass can also be utilized to regulate and enhance room temperature sustainably and in this sense, the material literally performs as a “warm” material. If applied, produced and planned differently, concrete can be hard, cold and austere, yet these are not the only characteristics which solely describe the materials ambiguous and diverse qualities.

In a natural environment, the employment of architectural materials is evidently related to local resources, landscape and topography, creating a relationship between inside and outside, individual, community and the surrounding nature. In the urban context, the relationship between natural environment, recourses and human life appear rather abstract and even unrelated. This abstraction can lead to the perception of the build environment and architecture as cold, isolating and inhuman, with material becoming a physical and psychological separator of all factors and parameters.

In Cheungvogl’s work, we are interested in the consideration of humanitarian values. Material becomes subject to psychological and emotional dematerialization, bringing humans to the centre point of design thinking rather than ornamental materiality. In this way we see material as the supporter and transporter and not only for the means of architecture itself. As architecture evolves around human life and is built upon human needs in correlation with its environment, architectural material is essentially a mediator between humans, environment and nature. In dense city context, architectural material gradually becomes a replacement of the natural environment and a mediator between individuals and their needs in a public communal space.

Materiality in architecture is equally connected to anthropology as it is reliant on environmental sciences.

The material which overcomes the notion of separation naturally by its specific characteristics is glass. Its hard surface and physical attributes stand in stark contrast to its transparent and translucent appearance and quality, perceiving it a rather soft and sensual material. Its ability to draw natural light within enclosed spaces and the visual connection it provides between inside and outside allows us to employ our most favourite material, which is Time.


Within the protected UNSESCO World Heritage site of Saint Petersburg, Russia, the redevelopment of the 110 year old department store Au Pont Rouge [conceived at around the same time as Taghaus] thrives on the idea of mediation. The project mediates between the historic structure and the new architectural intervention, while creating a relationship between inside and the outside and connecting the department store as a place of historically social relevance to the public city life and context.

The semi-transparent glazing of the interior spaces is layered around the historic structure, without colliding or covering the original artefacts. While defining multifunctional galleries spatially, the translucent walls allow natural light to penetrate deep into the building and its historic atrium space and transforming its appearance with changing light qualities throughout the day and seasons. Through the translucent layers, passers-by appear blurrier, the further they move away, making the closeness and distance of people experiential. To dissolve time and space coherency further, the industrial concrete floor, generally associated with hardness, softly reflects the light environment, almost appears like a water surface, enhancing the natural light qualities of the space.

Within Au Pont Rouge the presence of time is omnipresent. The setting places the visitor at the centre between history and present as it relates the individual to time and existence over the course of the day and seasons. The materiality of Au Pont Rouge allows the building to create a connection between inside and outside as well as present time and history. With natural light being the perfect representation of time, the one parameter which definitely relates humans to each other, to their environment and context, time is the ultimate and universal measurement of existence, documented by history.


Taghaus, a gallery, housing a private collection in Dusseldorf, Germany, is conceived with similar materials as Au Pont Rouge, yet the key focus of the architecture is on the perception of three-dimensional art and its experiential qualities and therefore inwardly directed.

Taghaus is designed as an enclosed sculpture garden to protect the exhibited art pieces from the environment, while allowing natural light qualities throughout the building. The building does not utilize any artificial lighting to illuminate the sculptures apart from the sole condition of changing natural light and the varying shadows to present and showcase the three-dimensional qualities and depths of the art exhibits. The translucent and semi-transparent external glazed panels of the enclosure and separation walls blur the boundaries of space, allowing visitors to engage with the art in a seemingly undefined surrounding, which is only connected to the outside world through the incidence of daylight and the softened indication of the context through the façade’s translucent glazing. The highly polished reflective concrete floor dissolves the hard edges between inside and outside and immediate adjacent exhibition rooms with the notion of dematerialization of surfaces.

Within the exhibition spaces of Taghaus, time becomes a visible reading on the changing surfaces of the sculptures, expressing the multiple facets and characteristics of the arts in changing play of light and shadow, creating a situation of intimate encounter between human and artistic intend. The engagement with the arts is elevated to a meditative, self-reflecting personal inner discourse with the object and the artist, rather than a spectacular observation at a glimpse.

Taghaus is conceived as the antithesis to common exhibition and gallery spaces, where the presentation of the arts is generally statically staged in curated light setting within a white box space, turning the arts into artificial and abstract objects with interrupted personal, emotional and intellectual connection to the spectator. The common exhibition space is designed for the arts to be seen. Taghaus instead employs time and light for the exhibited art pieces to be experienced individually. The materiality of architecture becomes a mediator between human, environment, mind and time, to eventually dissolve the categorical meaning of materiality.


From “Material Time” by Cheungvogl, first published in Brick, Brick! What do you want to be?, DAMDI Publishing Co., South Korea, 2018. 

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