Materials: A Bit More Clarity On Natural vs Engineered Materials

Remember that materials less engineered will return to their natural state as they age. They will keep increasing in character as they weather. Engineered materials have the opposite effect. They are in their most attractive state at the beginning of their life span where. It’s the perfection of the material that makes it attractive and as it weathers, becomes less perfect and less attractive.


Let’s look at some samples together. Pictures don’t do this topic justice, but we’ll do our best. We’ll start with brick which spans the continuum from natural to engineered.



100 year old brick wall

200 year old brick wall

500 year old brick wall


2,000 year old brick wall

You can see what happened as you line these bricks up in chronological order. The oldest bricks were hand made in wood molds. They had a lot of variation and texture. Things changed during the turn of the last century and machines, rather than people started making bricks. The brick formula began to have additives and they were more engineered to perform and carry heavier loads. There was less variation. The mortar lines became more perfect. The aim for precision and perfection ironically diminished the character.


Then in the 90’s we had a reaction to the staleness of brick and companies then added more color options and more varieties that completely ruined brick. We tried to get variety through mechanized ways and just ended up with garbage bricks of colors that bricks were never meant to be. We engineered the natural color out of brick. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. When we use these engineered brick colors, we’ve turned against brick’s natural state.


Now let’s take a quick look at wood. It obviously doesn’t last as long as masonry, but it's still an essential building tool. Strong, earthy, and reliable.



We use engineered materials because they are cheap. And if that’s what we can afford, we should use them. We just need to make sure we use them as authentically as possible. With the right vision and capable hands, achieving the impossible suddenly becomes a thing of the past.


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