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A Brief History of Terracotta

A unique clay that is celebrated for its rich, reddish orange hues, Terracotta has been used in sculptural art, architecture, and pottery for centuries by civilizations across the globe. Holding a prominent place in history, the material’s many modern uses include a diverse range of design applications—from tiles, mosaics, and…

A Closer Look at Linen

An age-old material made from the fibers of the flax plant, linen is a renewable resource regarded for its soft touch, smooth texture, strength, and durability. As one of the oldest textiles developed, linen can be traced back to ancient Egypt when it was often used as currency and a…

How to Read an Environmental Product Declaration

What is an EPD? If you’ve spent time scrolling through the environmental credentials for materials, you may have noticed the acronym EPD. It’s short for Environmental Product Declaration, and it’s a document that provides verified information about a product’s environmental impact across its life cycle. It’s not a certification or…

Elements of Modernist Design

Reinventing the relationship between space and aesthetics, the Modernist design style emerged at the turn of the 20th century as a celebration of composition and materiality achieved through transparency, technology, and efficiency. Guided by the idea that “form follows function,” the design movement is connected to the age of machination…

Exploring California’s Air Quality Standards

If you’ve spent time toggling through search options on Material Bank, you may have found a tag called “CDPH/CHPS 01350 compliant” and another labeled “CARB compliant” under the Certificates and Standards filter. CDPH/CHPS 01350 and CARB are home-grown California standards and standards-setters for air quality. They are very important for…

Exploring BIFMA Standards

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association is known as BIFMA, and its namesake furniture standards are widely known across the design industry, but little understood. The confusion primarily exists around what the organization is, and what its standards mean for the products being specified and purchased. BIFMA is not…

Choosing the Right Building Standard: LEED, WELL, and Fitwel

For design firms and companies who value human and environmental health, building rating systems are a helpful route to achieving some of the industry’s most ambitious, forward-looking goals. They set high standards for all kinds of building projects, from residential spaces to offices and schools, for both new construction and…

Exploring Plastic and its Alternatives in a Circular Economy

Type “pollution” in Google Images and alongside photos of billowing smokestacks, you’ll see landfills brimming with plastic, plastic bottles washed up on beaches, plastic floating in bodies of water. Type in “plastic” and you’ll find much the same, linking to articles with titles such as “A Tidal Wave of Plastic,”…

Biophilia and Biomimicry in Design

It’s easy to see why biophilia and biomimicry are frequently confused. They’re both design strategies that are inspired by nature and they were both introduced through the environmental movement – not to mention that they sound quite similar. But they’re actually entirely different concepts used in different ways – and…

A Brief History of the Vienna Secession

Like many styles in the late 19th through 20th centuries, the Vienna Secession was a rejection of the traditional conservative style that was prevalent throughout art, architecture, and design. Begun by notable artists and architects Gustav Klimt, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Koloman Moser, and Josef Hoffman among others who had been…

Exploring Greek Revival Style

Inspired by the symmetry, simplicity, and proportions of ancient Athens temples, Greek Revival architecture became a dominant design style in the United States and Northern Europe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Strong columns, gently sloping roofs, and gracefully proportioned interiors characterized the classical style, which continues to…

Exploring the Influence of Buckminster Fuller

A renowned visionary celebrated for cross-disciplinary and pioneering projects produced during the 20th century, Richard Buckminster Fuller’s inventions, ingenuity, and ideologies hold a lasting influence on contemporary architecture and design. With an expansive portfolio of projects that covered and combined many fields—from architecture and science to art and even cartography—Fuller…

A History of Art Deco

Art Deco was one of the most influential Western aesthetic movements of the twentieth century, particularly in France and the United States. Short for arts décoratifs, or decorative arts, Art Deco was named after the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, which was held in Paris in 1925….

A Brief Overview of the Baroque Style

Characterized by an elaborately ornate and highly adorned aesthetic that aims to inspire a sense of awe, Baroque is an extravagant and complex style of art and architecture associated with grandeur and luxury. Evoking ethereality through the use of unexpected and dramatic contrasts, Baroque décor often incorporates movement with bold,…

Memphis Design Style Elements

Bright colors, bold shapes, and patterns galore—when the Memphis style burst onto the scene in 1981, it wasn’t just a stark contrast from International Style and Midcentury Modernism which had reigned in the design vernacular over the previous decades, but it became part of the defining characteristics of the 1980s….

A Primer on Take-Back Programs

In 2015, the United States construction and demolition industry generated 169 million tons of debris from buildings, more than half of which ended up in landfills. That’s 169 million tons of concrete, wood, wallboard, shingles, brick and clay tiles, and steel that could be reused or recycled. The high volume…

A Brief History of the Circular Economy

In recent years, the circular economy has become a wildly popular concept—one that many companies want a piece of. It’s easier to evaluate claims of circularity with a clearer picture of what it means and where it comes from. The circular economy concept is the product of a few different…

An Overview of International Style

In the midst of chaos in the early- to mid-20th century, International Style emerged as a response by architects to societal issues that were plaguing Western countries. While design before the 20th century often took inspiration from previous styles and centered around revivalist ideals, architects and designers saw a draw…

The Circular Economy: Tighter Loops

The circular economy was designed as a financial system that could form part of a solution for the world’s ecological challenges. Its goal is to reduce environmental impacts and generate economic growth by reusing materials and eliminating waste and pollution, moving away from the consumption of finite resources and towards…

Elements of Victorian Style

A style of decorative arts, interior design, architecture that emerged in the United Kingdom during the period of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 through 1901, the Victorian aesthetic is characterized by both ornamentation and orderliness. Encompassing a broad selection of designs that surfaced during the Victorian era, the style combines…

Characteristics of Mediterranean Style

When looked at individually, the nearly two dozen countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia that surround the Mediterranean Sea have wildly different design histories and aesthetics. However, as Mediterranean style began to gain popularity in North America from 1918 to 1940, designers and architects pulled inspiration from elements that were…

Material Health: Specification Strategies Part II

Knowledge Bank is taking a closer look at specification strategies that design teams can implement in their projects to prioritize human health. By selecting healthier materials, building professionals can help reduce occupant exposure to toxic chemicals, and improve the health and well-being of communities. In this article, we’ll build on…

Exploring Elements of Midcentury Modernism

Midcentury Modernism is generally defined as a design style that spread through the United States and Western Europe from the late 1930s to early 1960s, although it saw the most prevalence from around 1945 to 1955. However, since it pulled influence from designs like Prairie Style in the US and…

A Primer on Cleanability for High-Touch Surfaces

Before 2020, only specialists needed to know the ins and outs of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Now it is more important than ever before. The surfaces that we touch frequently in indoor spaces can harbor harmful microbes and toxins, turning them into vectors for contagious diseases. To prevent infection, in…

Exploring Encaustic Tile

Boasting bold patterns that appear inlaid, encaustic tiles are made using multiple colors of clay through methods first conceived centuries ago. “The encaustic tile represents a part of history in the design world,” says Erica Puccio of TileBar. “The combination of multiple color patterns is not typical for a tile,…

Material Health: Specification Strategies

The first article in our series on material health explored toxicity and exposure in the built environment, including the ways that people can be exposed and the process for assessing risk. The quality of the indoor environment is vital to human health because we spend 90 percent of our lives…

An Overview of the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts movement is a historical style of design that began in the United Kingdom around the 1860s before expanding into the United States around 1890. Based on the philosophies of A.W.N. Pugin and John Ruskin, the Arts and Crafts movement was a response to growing industrialization. Proponents—especially…

Indoor Air Quality Strategies and Solutions: Ventilation

While many of us spend more time indoors than ever before, the pollution levels of indoor air are two to ten times higher than those found outdoors. Indoor air quality (IAQ) can be compromised by sources such as building materials, fuel-burning appliances, household cleaning and maintenance products, heating and cooling…

An Exploration of Pleats as an Expressive Interior Element

A material embellishment embraced for its ability to infuse volume, texture, and dimension, pleats are an expressive element of design that hold a long history. The traditional techniques used to create this age-old motif can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and pleats have been reinterpreted in recent years across…

The Lasting Legacy of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus Style

Known as the mind behind the Bauhaus and its innovative approach to art education, the influence of Walter Gropius has shaped the history of Modernist architecture and design throughout Europe and the United States. Despite only managing to stay open between 1919 and 1932—at which point it closed under duress…