Water as building material

Week 9 Blog (make-up)

Water plays an essential role in various facets of the built environment from enhancing the natural surrounding, to dynamic site interaction, and even as a material itself. Water is a key ingredient in some architectural processes and many architectural materials. Concrete would be impossible to produce without water, cutting glass and stone would be impossible without water, and it even has a considerable impact on the utilization of many wood products. In these cases, water is more of an implicit material since it’s being used as an ingredient and not as a standalone material. We see water used as a material on its own in certain aspects of landscape design, but how can it be used in other applications?


The most important consideration is that water is a fluid material, meaning molecules can freely flow between one another due to very weak chemical bonds. Immediately this eliminates nearly any possibility of water as a structural material, with the exception of extreme environments. Solid water has been used to construct occupiable space in the state of ice, though this requires very specific environmental factors and ice is quite susceptible to damage.

When considering these factors, perhaps it is best to embrace the nature of the material and observe its characteristics. Instead of trying to use water as a literal building material, it can be used implicitly to enhance many other materials. Water interacts wonderfully with light – an intangible building material, it moves in a way that no solid material can move, and provides a beautiful interactive dynamic. Water is often used jointly with glass and stone to create kinetic surfaces with the assistance of gravity. Water flowing over glass can enhance the surface quality while maintaining translucent properties.


Source: http://www.exaltedfountains.com/articles/Water-As-Building-Material.html



One comment

  1. hans5189

    Week 12

    Water is a pretty fascinating and maybe somewhat complicated substance, and we often take it for granted. It is so prevalent (at least in this part of the world) that I often forget about all the different ways it is used. You mentioned that water is an additive to many other materials, or is an accent to landscape design or potentially other forms of design. We put water features in parks and you can even buy small ones to put in a room. Not only that but water is a necessity of life. You also said that with all the abilities and desirable qualities that water has, the one thing that it cannot do is form structure on its own. I think this raises a question of defining structure and architecture.

    There is one project that comes to mind when I think of water as architecture called the Rain Room (http://twistedsifter.com/2015/12/rain-room-at-lacma-by-random-international/). I also googled water architecture, and another project called the Water Box came up (http://www.homedesignfind.com/green/heres-a-novel-green-building-material-water/). Both of these have similar concepts; using water to form space that is either very specific to its occupant or is of a more general shape. The second one I think is a little closer to what a lot of people consider to be architecture, but both of these projects still question the definition or role of architecture.

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