Summary and Goals

Architecture is born out of the shrewd alignment of concept and matter. The product of what Louis Kahn termed “the measurable and the unmeasurable,” architecture is the fulfillment of a spatial premise by way of material substance. Throughout history architecture has been shaped by the continual transformation of material technologies and application methods. Its course of development is inseparable from the shifting terrain of technology and the social effects that result. This intrinsic alignment with change—whether from a welcomed or critical perspective—reveals the extent to which architecture is inherently tied to material innovation.

Like technology, architecture has continually transformed over time—yet it has retained the consistent aim of elevating humanity, whether through the cultivation of the arts, advancement of the sciences, instillment of morality, or dissemination of culture. By studying the architecture of a given epoch, one can more readily discern particular technological and societal trajectories that illuminate future behaviors.

On one hand, new products and processes transform architecture by enabling alternative construction techniques and novel spatial possibilities. On the other hand, architecture’s utilization of established technologies in unexpected ways demonstrates its capacity to inspire new environmental solutions as well as empower social transformation. Both tendencies demonstrate the extent to which architecture expresses the shifting terrain of global techno-cultural objectives.

Course Goals
The built environment is a continuously changing terrain. This course will address two types of transformation that are critical to an understanding of the role of materials in architecture:

  • The evolving nature of material technologies and their relationships to society and the natural environment
  • The ways in which different material applications can change the meaning of architecture

Students will engage this subject matter by modeling two primary architectural practices: praxis (design as scholarship) and critique (scholarship of design).

Learning Objectives
By the end of this course, students will:

  • Understand major technological changes that have shaped the history of architecture
  • Be able to identify primary technological, social, and environmental influences in architecture and related disciplines
  • Be able to recognize and evaluate innovative building methods in comparison with standard techniques
  • Model basic design research practices employed by architects when assessing material technologies
  • Model basic critical writing practices employed by architects when constructing design arguments

Teaching Format
Each week I will address one material technology and one related theoretical and technical topic. Although this is a lecture class, we will utilize several strategies to increase interactive learning, including in-class small group discussions, team projects, and web-based responsive writing. I encourage you to ask questions during class, and I will sometimes call on individuals randomly in order to hear diverse points of view.

Text and Resources
In addition to the primary text, students will be expected to read a variety of articles which may be downloaded from the course website. Students will also use WordPress blogging tools as well as Adobe Creative Suite software for assignments.


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