Deriving Architectural Inspiration from Onyx Materiality

With numerous technological innovations that have revolutionized the construction industry, do natural materials remain a major source of inspiration for modern architects and designers? Though often treated as an applied finish or an afterthought, what if we re-frame our thinking about these natural building materials to allow their deeper roots to inform our designs? If you take on this point of view, you’ll quickly see that many contemporary buildings around the world could have been influenced by our favorite material: onyx! The wide range of colors and diverse styles of veining in natural onyx can inspire creative solutions to architectural problems regarding structure, materiality, openings, and sun-shading.

Take a look at our collection of onyx slabs paired with contemporary architecture projects to gain greater insight into our point of view:

  • One of the most attractive characteristics of onyx is the layered quality of the stone resulting from
    environmental changes throughout the different stages of its lifetime. Like this multi-brown onyx, St. Botolph’s Hall in London,
    England uses a spectrum of earth-toned striations to give a multi-dimensional aesthetic to the facade of an otherwise ordinary
  • In addition to mimicking amber tones in the materials and lighting features, the Trunk house by Paul Morgan
    alludes to onyx veining in its structure. By utilizing forked trees as the primary form of structural support, this
    Australian home creates a relationship with the natural surroundings while simultaneously introducing ancient
    Aboriginal construction methods.  The sharp lines across an organic background provide instant visual interest.
  • It can be argued that the delicate proportioning system of Steven Holl’s Museum of Ocean and Surf was inspired
    by the thin black striations slicing through crystal-white onyx. Located in Biarritz, France, this seaside structure
    received the “Best Building of the Year” award in 2011; embodying our favorite characteristics of onyx
    – translucency, soft dustings of color, and contrast – we can see why.
  • China is evolving into into the new international capital for high-tech architecture and design. Taking cues from
    the elegant white striations in black onyx, the building at Leatop Plaza is likely to become an architectural icon in the
    Guangzhou skyline.  The sharp lines slice through black masses unapologetically.
  • One of GPI Design’s favorite qualities of onyx is the multi-dimensionality that can be achieved on a flat surface. The Yellow Diamond by Jun Mitsui & Associates extrudes the characteristics of honey onyx to form a 3D “gem” within the Seoul urban realm.  A dynamic interaction with the streetscape is achieved with the subtle extrusions of crystallized forms.

By shifting perspectives and dissolving scale, materials can spur the exploration of new architectural concepts.  How can YOU shrink, stretch, extrude, slice, and layer other natural materials to inform design solutions at a larger scale?


Image credits: E-Architect, CNL Stone, Architizer, StoneWorld, 1BP, ArchDaily