Construction Lab

The first meeting of 6121 on Wednesday, September 2nd will take place in room 112 instead of Piper.

The covert title of this course is “Materiality in the Molecular Age”. Little does the establishment know, but to contribute on the global stage, Architects must root their imaginations in the world of the very small. For most architects today, the inner world of materials is an uncharted territory. A cloud of jargon deters them from exploring it. Their smallest concern is still the pinky-width detail of a shadow-gap. But consider how the oxygen we breathe and the water we drink are the waste streams of leafy-green molecular machines, which, atom by atom, by the pulse of the sun, make wood from air-bound carbon, building branching aqueducts that scrape the sky. Stuff matters, and so does scale. In the age of the Anthropocene, the fabric of material reality is evermore our own construction. Leaving what goes on “down there” to others will no longer do.

This course shows designers how to think about materials from the inside out. The trick is to imagine them as nested assemblies in a molecular storm. Do this, and you are half-way to knowing why some materials behave better than others. Half-way to making better material choices, whether it\’s for holding shape, conducting heat, or stirring the senses. And half-way to knowing how to design your own materials—how to take dumb stuff and use geometry to make it do smart things.

For each class there is a lecture, followed by a group discussion or exercise. During the course, some groups will have the chance to explore the world of the ‘very small’ using state-of-the-art equipment at the Harvard Center for Biological Imaging. Other groups will have the chance to visualize real air flow, surface temperatures, and strain. The images will form part of a commons library, for use in the whole-class assignment—a book we will write and edit together called “101 Things Architects need to know about Materials and Energy”.