- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
- Specialist wikis
Last edited 28 Oct 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
CLC introduces card for learners.
CIOB members recognised for public procurement.
Experts discuss the complex issues damaging the supply chain.
The co-founder of Get Kids into Survey discusses career paths for kids.
Report examines lack of detail in the Government's vision.
Our director Gregor Harvie hosts 4 webinars at the IHBC marketplace on Friday.
Look up construction terms on any website direct from your browser.
The revival of the public sphere in Toronto.
The story behind the copycat architecture craze.
Insight into construction materials supply and demand issues.
IHBC has announced winners of the 2020 honours.
Cement and concrete industry introduces measures to go beyond net zero.
UKGBC has introduced a resource to help with sustainability challenges.
Is it time to embrace EVs at last?