Material Worlds

2013, University of Michigan

In architecture today, the discourse surrounding matter and materiality is problematically unimaginative. Dominating both practice and academic research are concerns of performance—the quantifiable aspects of materials such as structural, thermal, and acoustic that can be listed in catalogues or programmed into high-tech fabrication processes. On the other hand, architects seeking to focus on the qualitative aspects of materials—the physical characteristics that enhance architectural experience—fall back on well-established, yet drastically outdated, discussions on material essence, presence, and place. Material Worlds flies in the face of these hackneyed debates, radically expanding the qualitative and projective potentials of materiality. In this course, material experimentation generates novel aesthetic and haptic qualities and non-optimal diagrams of form. Following a linear path of sizing up, students compose abstract “flat” objects by degrading and altering their material stocks. Next, they design three-dimensional, proto-architectural objects that lead to iterative formal and representational studies, which help develop Material Worlds’ ultimate ambition: a contemporary theory of speculative architectural materiality based in nonstandard aesthetic, disciplinary, and experiential criteria.