Architects Pick Their Favorite Building Material
Industry Leaders|June 2021
Henry Ford, the father of assembly-line manufacturing, had a saying: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
By Christy Gren

Ford realized that the long-term success of his organization laid on the standardization of its latest model the Model T. This vehicle was made economically because each was unit the same. Normally, they came in the only color that is a truly neutral color: Black.

The color black can make all sorts of statements, depending on the context. While it implied consistency and sober-mindedness for Henry Ford, artists such as, Johnny Cash have donned black as an image of resistance. ““It is the ultimate code switcher,” explains Stella Paul in the introduction to Black: Architecture in Monochrome, a flawless photograph book as of late distributed by Phaidon. “Asserting abject humility or the pretensions of power — sometimes concurrently — black, freighted with messages, is a brilliant communicator of values.”

01 MIRRORED PANELS

Black, however, is uncommon in architecture. Black may convey contradictory messages, yet it is continually implying something, imparting some worth. What follows are features from Black that architects using this hue in their materials to powerful impacts.

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland by Farshid Moussavi, Cleveland, Ohio, 2012

There is something frightening, even vexing, about encountering a mirror where you don’t anticipate it, for example, on the outside of a building. The reflective surface attracts spectators as they desire to get a brief look at what’s inside, just to rebuke their penetrative look. The inside stays covered up, barely out of reach.

Farshid Moussavi knows how to play with mirrors. Her rich Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland is covered in mirror-finish black steel panels to look like a finely cut gem. The museum center has no permanent collection — its exhibitions are continually rotating — so even local people don’t actually have a clue what lies inside the black box.

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