This elective theory seminar (ARC 327R / ARC 386M) is scheduled for the first summer session (June 4th–July 9th). The course is open to students outside of the School of Architecture. There are no prerequisites.
The central question of this seminar is, “What materials are most appropriate for the 21st century?” The built environment has been in constant evolution since the first humans appeared 2.5 million years ago; underlying these changes is the discovery, development, and implementation of available raw materials. For the vast majority of our history, transformations in material use moved slowly; 7,000 years passed between the common use of copper and iron. The discovery of concentrated energy in the 19th century unlocked an exponential phase of material development, allowing for the production of new materials that have made our modern world possible while transforming the planet. The impact of our material decisions, made in multiple, increases as human population and resource consumption grow in size and complexity - leading one to further ask, “How do we determine which materials are most appropriate?”
This seminar introduces a compelling selection of materials that have the potential to solve our greatest material challenges. We will move beyond the singular lens of sustainability and examine four criteria to determine each material’s “appropriateness”: accessibility, performance, welfare, and perception. Students will build a deep material literacy, examine global material challenges, develop and test a personal manifesto on the appropriateness of materials, and speculate on new material futures through a final design project. At the end of the course, students will be familiar with the materials that dominate our world today, and others that will transform our world tomorrow.
The course will take place entirely online. It is split into 15 modules that include video lectures from the instructor, case studies, and multimedia content. Content will stray beyond the disciplinary boundaries of architecture to include material concepts in biology, chemistry, economics, anthropology, and art. All course material will be accessed through a centralized class page on Canvas.
Due to the web-based format of the seminar, modules can be completed on a flexible schedule; however, there will be a weekly deadline to allow for community discussions. Although the class will not physically meet, there will be a high level of instructor-student and student-student engagement through online discussion and project feedback. Students will be graded on both the merit of the work they produce individually, as well as the quality of critical engagement with the work of their peers.