Material Histories of Architecture
Dr. Kim Förster
Dr. Brett Mommersteeg
Prof. Katie Lloyd Thomas (Newcastle University)
Prof. Hannah LeRoux (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)
External LinksAdobeAsbestosBrickConcreteGlassNanomaterialsPlastic IPlastic IIPortland StoneTimber ITimber II
Leaving aside the commonplace that architecture, by definition, not only offers shelter, but also requires, and even consumes materials, this research seminar was dedicated to material histories in a variety of architectural, cultural, political, geographical, anthropological and social respects.
Building materials were looked at in a transdisciplinary perspective, since the Anthropocene, as a challenge to the humanities and to practice, is about rethinking not only the relationship to energy regimes, but rather also to the material world. The aim was not only to research material conditions and constraints of architecture, the processes of production, objectification, and communication that inform traditional, modern and future-oriented materials. A material perspective, next to making commodity chains a topic, opens architecture's focus on broader political geological aspects such as extraction and sedimentation that shape and are product of material culture, and related aspects such as social and environmental justice.
In the workshop, in order to build historical awareness, methodological competence, and environmental literacy, students first in four sessions: read, discussed on current materialist, both vitalist and historical positions; compared different architectural historical positions on issues of architectural culture and urbanization, construction technology and aesthetics, management and labour in relation to concrete as a crucial, yet problematic building material of the 20th century; learned about diverse forensic approaches working on compliance with environmental and human rights, a postcolonial and post-humanist perspective, the preservation of cultures and landscapes, etc.; and finally were confronted with political approaches of governmentality and environmentality in the face of a continuing exploitation of both people and the planet, i.e. how Anthropos relates to Bios and Geos.
The students had the task of working in small groups on a material of their own choice—with research on adobe, asbestos, brick, concrete, glass, nanomaterials, plastic, stone, and twice timber—, i.e. analysing and presenting the commodity geographies in terms of their impacts on landscape and territories, as well as economic and ecological viewpoints, with the help of visualisation techniques (map, diagram, film).
During the workshop, which combined phases of research, presentation, critique, and production, the students acquired knowledge, skills, and abilities by:
- conducting case-based research into a specific building material on the basis of a transdisciplinary perspective
- applying and developing architectural skills of visualisation, combined with those of narration
- reading analytically and critically seminal and contemporary architectural histories
- mapping of material geographies, through online and text-based research
- diagramming of stakeholders, human and non-human, in their relations
- searching relevant literature, and producing an annotated bibliography
- writing, editing, producing a video, which tells a material story, in a historical, critical, speculative, imaginative manner
Jemma Rose Baldwin
Sing Hong Chau
George Leon Cosbuc
Farah Nadhiera Binti Mohammad Fuad
Lon Y Law
Titiloreoluwa Naomi Olasode
Oladipo Timothy Shobowale
Jordan Hin Ho Wong