Brad and I met at school over 16 years ago. We always shared the same interests and both ended up studying Industrial Design in Edinburgh, where we always discussed opening a design studio together. After university we both did our own thing for a few years, then had the good fortune to work together at Foster + Partners, looking after the Materials Research Centre. In this role we supported architectural design teams in their selection of materials, researched and kept the practice abreast of new materials, products, and technologies, and maintained the comprehensive materials library.
Brad moved on to work at Dezeen while I stayed on at F+P, then after another few years we decided that we would launch our own business providing creative material expertise to the architecture and design community. The business was launched with Zürich-based Architonic, the global leading digital resource for products and materials.
Materials Council is still a relative acorn in the business world, with Brad and I the permanent foot soldiers. However, as we work closely with associate partners Architonic, we have access to their 70+ experts in architecture and digital technology when appropriate. Nils Becker, co-founder of Architonic, is especially generous with his time.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment we are providing architectural materials support for a couple of high-end residential properties in London. We are consulting to Clayworks, Cornwall-based manufacturers of clay plasters, improving the communication and presentation of their products for the A&D community.
Alongside that, we are preparing and then delivering a number of talks and workshops to architects and universities.
What materials trends do you see happening currently in architecture? In interiors? In product design?
One trend that we’re witnessing at the moment is a return to vernacular, traditional, and natural materials in response to environmental demands placed on architects and designers, and I suspect in response to an increasingly homogenous globalized world. The exciting thing is there is a new generation of natural materials available that are modified or engineered to improve performance while remaining environmentally benign.
As this is entirely our focus we have the luxury of time to devote to researching materials that is unrealistic for architects and designers. Typically we read books, magazines, and visit a number of excellent websites. We visit a lot of trade fairs around Europe. We are in constant dialogue with manufacturers, who, thanks to our strong relationships, keep us informed of developments. Essentially we’re very passionate about what we do, so we talk about materials a lot to people – creatives, manufacturers, scientists, and academics. The key is finding a balance between looking specifically within the world of architecture and design, and widening the net to look into the materials being used within other disciplines, for example transportation, military or sports.
What are some new materials that you are excited about?