By Joachim Fischer, Chris van Uffelen

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Materials dictate to a great extent what gets built and the normative methods of how something gets built. Original methods like Dieste’s defy what a material can do and deliver forms that are unusually beautiful and extraordinarily plastic for a given fig. 12 | Union of the Torus and the Sphere, by Richard place. The expansion of spatial possibilities and the delivery of expressive forms Serra, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, 2001 are most likely when a new method of arranging material arises. Method—more than material—is the territory that expands expression: originality is achieved when one has control and can extract precision of new techniques.

In 1827, German Friedrich Wöhler more or less repeated the experiment and has since been mainly credited with aluminum’s initial production. In 1821, Pierre Berthier discovered bauxite—named after the town Les Baux de Provence—the ore from which he successfully extracted the pure metal. The extraction process remained extremely 50 Post-Ductility History and Theory difficult, however, and only allowed for the production of very small quantities, making the metal scarce, desirable, and costly. Aluminum’s characteristics—its noncorrosiveness, relative softness, light weight, and shine—initially added to its assumed preciousness.

If the name for the nineteenth century is the Age of Steel, recognizing the role of steel in the expansion of our built environment, then the first seventy-five years of the twentieth century could easily be called the Age of Aluminum. Number thirteen in the periodic table, the element known as aluminum (referred to as aluminium outside the United States) evolved in the twentieth century into a material associated with progress in both building and lifestyle. Aluminum once had a value similar to gold; today, however, it has achieved an almost ubiquitous presence.

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