The Laboratory – Material Shifts

Friday 10 – Saturday 18 September 2021

‘We may now be in a position to think about the origin of form and structure, not as something imposed from the outside on an inert matter … but as something that may come from within the materials, a form that we tease out of those materials as we allow them to have their say in the structures we create.’ Manuel DeLanda, Material Complexity

The Laboratory is a cross-disciplinary Visiting School that brings together architects, artists, designers and researchers to speculate about our life in the future. It is based at the
Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design, one of the biggest arts schools in Germany, adjacent to the reknown Weissenhof Estate. In 2021 the Laboratory embarks on a new three-year programme of events, entitled ‘Mind the future’, putting the responsibility for our future back into our own court.

Can architecture/architects safe the world?

Covid-19 and the climate emergency have enhanced our material sensibility and reset the spotlight on our real problems. As vital to our life on this planet as water and air, material resources are finite and can’t be (mass)reproduced.

The material ethos that underwrites the fields of design and architecture has to shift now. How can we build in a better way?

‘Material Shifts’ wants to probe and chart the contemporary frontiers of materials and their ecological potential. We will be mapping technological advancements and ancient techniques, from nanoscale imaging, synthetic biology and advanced manufacturing, to building with mud, mushrooms, algae and waste. Material itself is a pressing design question and task. How, as architects and designers, can we become active agents in initiating the shift towards an environmentally mindful and responsible use and sourcing of materials in construction?
How can we engage in a renewed understanding of the philosophy and politics of materials?

Prominent Features of the workshop/ skills developed

  • – Introduction to novel and ancient construction materials in the age of climate change
    – Understanding of current trends, socially, culturally, spatially and technologically and their possible impact onto our shared future
    – Understanding the role and potential of architecture in this context
    – Designing buildings through a material thinking
    – Developing an awareness of the culture, politics, economy and ecology of construction materials
    – Introduction to design and research methods
    – Collaborating and communicating with experts from diverse fields (science, industry etc)
    – Developing design literacy through constant dialogue (group, tutors, experts), learning to take a position
    – Guest lecturers and critics from transdisciplinary fields
    – Programme of field trips, site visits and lectures