- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 06 Feb 2020
Truth to materials
The sculptor Henry Moore, said:
Examples of this theory in practice include:
- Exposed concrete left unpainted, with shuttering marks unsanded.
- Timber’s natural grain left unpolished, painted or stained.
- Copper’s natural patina left untouched.
- Steelwork left exposed.
As a theory, it is most closely associated with modernist architecture, although it originated in the Industrial Revolution, as a consequence of technological development, when it became increasingly possible, but perhaps not desirable, to adapt materials for aesthetic purposes.
In the early-20th century, the Bauhaus movement taught ‘truth to materials’ as a core principle, and held that materials should be used in their most ‘honest’ form, without changing their nature. This was seen to be in conflict with the large range of synthetic materials that were being developed at the time which, due to their inexpensiveness and advantageous properties, were increasingly selected as a substitute for natural materials.
In practice, truth to materials requires sensitivity on the part of the designer and the craftsman who works with the material. They should be aware of how a material can be drilled, sawn, shaped, etc., without damaging it, rendering it unsafe or unstable, but with a the sensitivity to how a it is most appropriately used and adapted.
Critics of the theory argue that this sensitivity to materials has to be balanced with the imaginative ‘vision’ or creativity of the designer or craftsman. They hold that the aesthetic potential of materials should not be foregone solely in favour of its utilitarian purpose.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Eight forms of resource optimisation.
CIOB responds to Chancellor Sunak's announcement on jobs and the economy.
Revised guide to competition rules available.
Brick slip soffit systems and intricate brick features.
An innovative engineering approach could have had tragic consequence for NYC.
Some secrets behind how canals work.
Breaking down possible steps of pre-contract management.
ICE event includes comments from Welsh Government Minister Julie James.
How to write them and what they should include.
Designing Buildings Wiki becomes the world's first website to adopt the new knowledge standard.
Assessing the most beneficial design elements.
Exploring different types of vinyl flooring.