Welcome to Material Strategies

La Defense, UNStudio

With the explosion of new materials and technologies available for building construction, it is critical that architects confront this broadening palette in order to understand the implications for future structures. Moreover, the growing awareness of energy and material resource scarcity, global warming, and other environmental concerns has brought unprecedented change to how we relate to the physical environment, requiring us to re-assess conventional methods of material selection and implementation.

In this seminar, we will consider a new set of strategies for material approaches based on issues related to global material and resource flows, technological trajectories, and potential sociocultural effects. Students will gain expertise regarding material theory, building technology, and the role of material selection in the design process. Course content will include an assessment of the primary material categories and their environmental implications, as well as emerging debates concerning technical versus biological nutrient cycles, hydrocarbon versus carbohydrate-based economies, and so-called high-tech versus low-tech design approaches.

Students will be expected to read a variety of theoretical, historical, and technical sources, maintain a weekly writing journal, and come to class prepared for active discussion. A mid-term project focused on a material interrogation and a final paper focused on a material case study will be required, in addition to in-class presentations related to each.


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