On Sulfur

Paper presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum in Philadelphia, PA, October 6–8.

Research that explores case studies of buildings characterized by a direct material and formal response to the chemical processes that take place within them.

In 1911, the architect Hans Poelzig wrote an essay on industrial buildings in which he explained the significant connections between production process, architectural form and environment:

“Already now, we have the possibility to distribute electricity through far distances. This gives flexibility in the distribution and organization of processes and the architectural whole of the facilities becomes harmonious.”

Poelzig refers here to his recently completed factory where he devised a unique approach to the architecture and planning of the facility: On the larger planning scale he worked with site and programmatic components, strategically employing residential, road, water, infrastructure and energy networks. In the scale of the building wall thicknesses, spatial arrangements and material choices were based on the chemical properties of the product. The processes and network variants of Poelzig’s industrial architecture are unique for their time.