Texture and Architecture:
Shapes, structures and buildings are overwhelmingly all around us and it is hard not to take notice of their impact on us on a daily basis. Personally, architecture is a regular talking point both at home and at work as my husband, daughter and son-in-law are all architects.
My previous article discusses the importance of texture in music and how it is created with the layering of different sounds and rhythms by various instruments. Similarly, in architecture, the interaction of different materials with their combination, contrast, scale and harmony, craft the mood and functionality of a space. The 18th-century German writer Wolfgang van Goethe said “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music”. When we unpack this interesting quote, we realize that the fundamentals in both music and architecture have multiple similarities such as rhythm, harmony, proportion, dynamics and especially texture.
The beginning of architecture can be dated back to the Neolithic period which is approximately 10000 years ago. Prehistoric builders used earth, timber and stone to create a structure, which means the use of tactile and visual textures in architecture, has existed for a long time.
Patterned repetition or rhythm depicted in the architecture
Earliest example of stone architecture of arches from the Neolithic period
Texture plays a crucial role in enhancing the visual and tactile characteristics of a building, creating rhythm and pattern, and transforming a space. The experience of being in a space lets the viewer not only see it but also imagine how it feels, which is largely possible due to the use of textures.
Visual textures in architecture depend primarily on colour, texture and light. Some examples include the smoothness of glass windows, grain of wood and the weave of the fabric. The clever use of light and shadow also facilitates architects to play with the dimensions of a building. Shadows create depth and raised areas are highlighted, emphasizing on texture, which is a great example of visual texture.
Examples of visual textures using light and shadow
The texture of materials affects the visual weight of a form as well as its durability. With exposure to direct sunlight, textured materials are more durable than smooth ones. However, the maintenance of smoother materials is relatively easy than rougher surfaces as dust may accumulate further in the latter.
People are already aware and accustomed to the feel of certain materials such as concrete, steel, wood, glass etc., most of which can be described as soft, hard, rough, smooth, dull, shiny, dark, and light. Often when we walk into spaces, our mind tends to identify the space as being warm, cold, comfortable, inviting etc. Does texture affect our mood?
Certainly, the colour of a space plays a key role in setting the vibe of a place and so does texture. For example, adding fabrics like rugs, throw pillows and blankets immediately, “softens” a space visually, without us having to even touch it. Basically, the manipulation and contrast of materials enable the viewer to imagine what a space feels like without touching it. With the development of technology and the innovation of different materials, architecture has evolved to produce extremely fascinating structures with remarkable designs.
Example of spaces with a comfortable mood
Wood and metal, although hard and rough, can make a space feel incredibly warm and add depth. This can be achieved by adding curves as they feel softer than corners. Grains on the wood also contribute to how it feels when positioned in a space.
Textures are an important aspect in deciding the lighting in buildings as they have a dramatic effect on a space. Not only that, they determine the ability of a surface to reflect or absorb light. Direct light on a surface can enhance its texture while diffused light tends to soften it. Smooth textured fabrics like silk and satin reflect light and help make a room feel brighter and lighter. Deeply textured materials like wood and stone create a rustic feel as they absorb light
A surface becomes textured with the help of patterns, which are usually a repetitive motif. A combination of two or more textured surfaces also helps to create an interesting contrast in a space. For example, a heavy texture in scale and contrast to a light background escalates the mood of the room. Our sensitivity to textures also greatly depends on the distance it is viewed from.
Carved stone on a temple wall with repeat pattern
Patterns on the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) building in Lisbon, Portugal
Texture is an integral part of art and design, adding aesthetic and functional characteristics. Through these articles, we delve deeper into the presence of texture in various aspects of our life. What value do you think it adds to different objects and spaces? Can you imagine a world without texture?
Kalyani Pramod is a Designer, Artist, Fibre artist, Design teacher, Mentor and also a Director in Shuttles & Needles.