Tag Archives: LEATHER

(DI)STRESSED OUT: LIFE WITH PATINA

September 29, 2016

My fave pair of jeans, by AG (photo by Anthony Poon)

What is it about our favorite pair of jeans—weathered and perfectly broken in? How about the ol’ leather jacket—worn and faded? The lustrous surface, cracking a little—almost poetically.

The Silver Room, Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)
The Silver Room, Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

But a car. No one wants a car that has been distressed, with a shattered windshield and scratches on the sides. No, we want our cars immaculate. Like new.

Many think of architecture like a polished car. Buildings should look new. Buildings are constantly being renovated, and historic building hopefully restored to their original sheen.

left: The Acropolis at Athens, by Leo von Klenze, 1846; right: Today’s Parthenon, Athens, Greece (photo from wanderforlife.com)
left: The Acropolis at Athens, by Leo von Klenze, 1846; right: Today’s Parthenon, Athens, Greece (photo from wanderforlife.com)

But why not we embrace a building as worn, like our denim jeans or favorite leather shoes?

Renovation by Martin / Poon Architects of the legendary 1924 Gordon Kaufman-designed estate, Los Angeles, California (photo by Martin / Poon Architects)
Renovation by Martin / Poon Architects of the legendary 1924 Gordon Kaufman-designed estate, Los Angeles, California (photo by Martin / Poon Architects)

Consider the dreamy paintings of Antiquity, with the gleaming majesty of white temples. Think of how they look today: tired, old, covered in both soot and scaffolding. Most buildings can’t look the same as they did on the first day.

And I argue that they shouldn’t.

Amazon summarizes the book by my thesis advisor, Mohsen Mostafavi, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time. “On Weathering illustrates the complex nature of the architectural project by taking into account its temporality . . . weathering makes the “final” state of the construction necessarily indefinite, challenges the conventional notion of a building’s completeness.”

I suggest that we embrace building materials that patina with inherent beauty. I think of the tag that comes with my jeans, “Variations and changes in color and surface are not defects of the material, but considered to be part of the fabric’s natural beauty.”

left: New copper (photo from ecrc1.org); right: Patina’d copper (photo by Ian Crossland)
left: New copper (photo from ecrc1.org); right: Patina’d copper (photo by Ian Crossland)

Copper, for example, expresses evolution and maturity, as it starts shiny and bright, deepening to a rich “dirty penny” brown, eventually becoming a vivid and brilliant green. Bricks begin life as a crisply cast block of masonry. Over time, the edges soften and the surfaces crack a little. The standard red color becomes twenty different shades of the hue of origin. Consider the 200-year old brick sidewalks of Boston.

left: New bricks (photo milbricks.com); right: Worn bricks (photo from bgfons.com)
left: New bricks (photo milbricks.com); right: Worn bricks (photo from bgfons.com)

Materials aside, allowing architecture to breathe, express its age and soul, and change even mutate—all this displays character and life, like the worn grooves in a wood service stair. Progress: A caterpillar does not exists only as a worm.

Daily life, Cinque Terre, Vernazza, Italy (photo by akulamatiau)
Daily life, Cinque Terre, Vernazza, Italy (photo by akulamatiau)
For $1,200 at Barneys New York, you can get a brand new pair of shoes that are already distressed and patina’d (photo by Anthony Poon)
For $1,200 at Barneys New York, you can get a brand new pair of shoes that are already distressed and patina’d (photo by Anthony Poon)
© Poon Design Inc.