Material Practice and its Agency

This seminar introduces an understanding of material discourse in design and architecture that affects cultural, social ,economic and political issues.  In addition to their pragmatic function—as the basis for construction means and methods—materials also carry a long history of human civilization and tradition. This seminar aims to embed material practice into the history and culture of its origins, resource utilization, craftsmanship, fabrication and its role in performance within building assembly and beyond to its atmospheric effect both as perceptual experience and thermodynamic performances.  We will look at the material use  through the lens of various global crises and its impact such as environmental , or pandemic when latent issues are exposed and impact is accelerated. Material practice carries affects such as ambience and atmosphere. It impacts acoustics, lighting, tactility, aesthetics and environmental performance. This seminar aims to bring forth more comprehensive, complex and holistic understandings of material culture which varies in impact at different event scales—from personal to communal and local to global. Topics include specific focus on contemporary material practice such as wood, glass, metal and in addition ethics and econology of material culture and study of waste in material culture. Evolving nature of lighting practice is included as performative and atmospheric component of material practice.

We will look at a range of fabrication methods—handmade, mechanical and digital—within different economies, from vernacular building materials and techniques to new and advanced material explorations. 

Each student will be expected to choose one material practice as a focus for research, exploring its application and the possibilities for its role, meaning, effects and message in contemporary practice. 

Course structure: Classes will consist of one hour asynchronous lecture by the instructor each week to introduce topics of synchronous one hour presentation in the class, often accompanied by guest lecturers. There will be a flexible synchronous hour following the presentation for group discussions. 

Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefan