Building materials stand test of time

Don't underestimate value of 'patina'

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In architecture, the surest way to achieve a timeless design is to use materials that are familiar, durable and that become more beautiful the older they get. Not surprisingly, most of the materials that qualify have been around for ages. Brick is a classic example. It's among the most ancient building materials -- the oldest known bricks, found in the upper Tigris region of what is now Turkey, date back to around 7500 B.C. In all the intervening millennia, not much about brick has changed, either: Even here in 21st century America, where nothing happens fast enough, genuine brick is still installed at a relative snail's pace, one little piece at a time. Other common examples of timeless materials include stone, heavy timber, and metals with so-called "living finishes," such as copper, brass and bronze. All of these can shrug off decades and sometimes even centuries of abuse without losing any of their visual appeal. In fact, most people find them more beautiful...