Ch 6a contd…Materials ~ Transitions…

This piece piece picks up from a blog post by Bob Borson ( http://www.twitter.com/bobborson and http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com )where Bob discusses the importance of the detail when one material transitions into another (there are also some brilliant examples showing how to get it wrong!) – for the FULL BLOG POST CLICK HERE.

In summary, the handling on how the junction where one material transitions into another can make or break your design. To quote from Bob: “you should never change building materials on an outside corner“. This is one of my personal bugbears and I completely agree with what Bob is saying.

The purpose of this section is to give a little explanation on how this problem occurs, how to eliminate the ‘nasty transition’ scenario and to put my hand-up and admit that I have (in the past) been guilty of committing such a faux-pas and explain how it happens…

When detailing the corner of a building it is recommended that the same material is continued on each face of the corner. The Cork Rural Design Guide deals specifically with this problem with reference to stonework:

“Avoid 2-dimensional type effects with stone, which give it [houses] a very false ‘applied’ appearance” and positive examples are given where the stone should be considered in 3D, that is where the stone is continued around each corner and is not an “arbitrary veneer effect“.

The stonework on our own house (see below) wraps around the entire 2 storeys; the stone returns to meet the glazing on an internal corner on a very short section of wall (just over a metre) – even this small section of wall eliminates this ‘2D stone veneer’ problem.


I’ll be returning to the use of stonework in a future post where I’ll be discussing the traditional use of stonework in Ireland and ways that it can be used in an appropriate yet contemporary method.

Why therefore, does this “nasty transition” occur? I think the answer is threefold:

1. There’s a lack of consideration when analysing the design of a house and not completely ‘understanding’ the design in 3 dimensions. Obviously architects are trained to think and design completely in 3D but other ‘designers’ may be simply producing a set of elevations of the proposed building without full attention given to what happens when use use different materials on different facades. Although the concept of using materials in 3D is recommended by several county councils, maybe a little more training should be given to planners in understanding designs in 3D or maybe the inclusion of 3D drawings should be obligitory for all planning applications?

2. There’s the ‘I’d love a little bit of stonework on the front” client; where although stone is a completely natural and appropriate material (as long as the stone is a local material and then use one that’s indigenous to the area); the result of this request unfortunately results in the stone 2 dimensional veneer that is is so prevalent.

3. Cost is a big issue, every square metre of stone costs several hundred euro to deliver and lay and again, the result is an inappropriate 2 dimensional facing panel.


Example showing the porch rendered in stone in 3D to match the existing stone cottage (originally garage was to be clad entirely in stone but ended with 2D only on front and extensive stonework was used on the interior to compensate as shown below).


But as I’ve said throughout, you need to be very careful when laying down ‘architectural rules’ as the award-winning example below from Rujana,Bergam,Markovic shows in their project ‘2 houses’ in Bratovici,Croatia. Where the stone walls are softened by cladding the end facade in timber panelling; against the rules but still works:


Photo from Issue 005, House Edition 29 (for ipad), highly recommend this app to all architects and everyone interested in residential design

Next post focuses on concrete…

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