Special Subject: Building Technology - Emergent Materials Workshop

The Emergent Materials Workshop is offered for the purpose of initiating and supporting a variety of material experiments as applied to the contemporary architectural construct. The workshop will give the student a chance to focus on the reinterpretation of function and the reconsideration of application of three "classes" of materials.

Cellular solids: including aerated concretes and plasters, as well as polymer and metal foams and other related biomimetic morphologies,
Fibers, textiles and films: including natural and synthetic fibers and multi-layered fabrics as well as polymer films (e.g. ETFE),
Composites: bioploymers, resins and other matrices reinforced with fibrous, textile and particulate materials.

Lectures will include themes of resource efficiency and material selection within the context of emerging areas of research and practice of materially "altered" architectural norms. Readings will be offered to establish the state of the art and deepen the knowledge base of the class. Finally, discussions will prompt the main activity of the workshop – the making of material prototypes. The main effort and thrust of this workshop will be the making of large-scale material prototypes that activate architectural speculation in novel directions. Therefore, the "emergence" of this workshop will be the actual material prototype and the altered physical presence of an architectural construct. The tools for heat welding, casting, sewing, joining and finishing will be provided. We will also utilize the database of the CES Granta Material Selector for selection and analysis.

The materials of architecture are inherent in the development of its form and the implication of future form. Ancient concrete and masonry construction, Gothic stonework, the standardized steel bar joists of modern buildings, the reinforced concrete of bridges and tall buildings have shaped the direction of design as well as the production of novel forms of architecture. Whether experiments in materials yield successful buildings is often highly dependent on the rigor of the effort – a combination of design intuition and technical competency. As in any field of technology, the development of novel materials for buildings is littered with false starts. And yet, some of the primary developments in architectural form have been prompted by the risk-taking that accompanies the introduction of new materials. This workshop seeks to promote this kind of risk-taking.