Materials as Probes

Architecture is a ‘slow’ weather probe. Our cognition of the relationship between architecture and environment—or between architecture the dynamic milieu of irradiance, sky cover, temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, wind speed and wind direction—requires a long feedback loop. Knowledge is acquired over time as adjustments are made here and there to actual buildings arrayed in settlement patterns, and to a building’s constituent parts and materials, precisely because time affords the manifestation of invisible phenomena. One can see and comprehend a macroscopic influence of meteorological events and then make adjustments. However, the adjuster is most certainly not the architect. He or she is rarely present to collect this kind of feedback.

Yet, what if the architect were present to measure the actual rather than simulate the predicted performance of material assemblies? This catalyst workshop recasts whole material assemblies as ‘fast’ weather probes. In so doing, this five day exploration with forms and sensors challenges students to align their materials and construction know-how with real-time studies of the environment. It provides discourse on the following questions: How is knowledge of the environment acquired? What is the potential relationship between form generation and real-time feedback? How might design practices change when real-time feedback is incorporated into the design process?

ARCH 5110: Architecture as Catalyst. Co-taught with Billie Faircloth and Ryan Welch (KieranTimberlake). Graduate design workshop (1 credit). University of Minnesota School of Architecture.

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