In recent years, design has demonstrated its extreme versatility, reinterpreting classic materials such concrete and brass, giving them a more elegant nuance. If in the past the material par excellence of furniture and accessories was mainly wood, ceramics and a whole range of plastic, today designers tend to focus on the materiality of their products, opting for the different uses of less noble materials to obtain simple but elegant shapes. The word concrete, as Philip Jodidio writes in the book “Contemporary Concrete Buildings” just published by Taschen, “incorporates a very wide range of substances used in construction and, when properly treated, is one of the noble materials of contemporary architecture."
The word cement is often used as a synonym for concrete, but it is only one of its ingredients. The ancient Egyptians used it in their constructions, combining lime and mortar based on plaster, while the Romans produced another type of concrete, leaving us, as example of this technique, the Pantheon of Rome. Over the centuries, architects have chosen concrete as the most versatile and resistant material in different types of projects. And in many cases they didn’t cover or colour it, but left it in plain view.
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Among the most famous concrete projects which made the history of modern architecture are the Casa Batllò by Antoni Gaudì in Barcelona, Palace of the Dawn by Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia and House on the Waterfall (Fallingwater) by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pennsylvania. Today, there are many new concrete projects around the world signed by archistars such as Álvaro Siza, David Chipperfield, Tadao Ando, Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, as well as Herzog & de Meuron, Renzo Piano and Steven Holl, to name but a few of the most famous studios. In the last few years, concrete has been re-discovered and used in new designs: furniture, furnishing accessories, lamps, and everything with which decorate our homes and interiors. Big design companies know this new trend very well, as you can see many concrete products by Molteni, Magis, Foscarini, and other international brands such Seletti and Menu, with its bestseller JWDA lamp. And it’s interesting to see how concrete is still so versatile, inspiring designers.
The other material – which went through the same evolution and plays an integral part in today’s most coveted contemporary design collections – is brass. Very popular in the 1950s, it was valued by lovers of Modernism of that era, until it was outclassed by other metals in the 1980s and 90s. And if we used to see it only as handles, plates, furniture feet and semi-hidden details on lamps, brass has witnessed a true revival in the past two years. Made with a mix of copper and zinc, it is a very flexible and practical material, as well as versatile and economical. It is much appreciated by designers for its golden colour, which veers almost towards green. Different from the distinct yellow colour of gold and more elegant than chromium, brass can make an incisive and characteristic mark on any interior.
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Due to its refinement, it is never too much and always discreet, thus easy to combine with other furniture and accessories. It is also one of the few materials that interprets various styles, great with distinctly Nordic and minimalist settings, as well as an eclectic mix of vintage, antique and more glam pieces. Today, many brands choose to use brass for lamps, furnishings and smaller items, adding a touch of elegance and soft light to every interior and home.
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