Explore the faculty and students in this research cluster.
Material Matters - Penn State Architecture
Architecture Research Cluster
The Material Matters (MM) research cluster provides students with opportunities to delve into the interaction of materials and processes. With research ranging from material properties exploration to applied process-based design, this cluster encompasses a wide range of creative interests that find common ground in the power of material – the generator and substance of design.
Research in the MM cluster is supported by a collection of faculty members whose work focuses on craft traditions, industrial production, tooling and skills transmission, bricolage and the material imagination, material memory, design-build, and the reuse and restoration of buildings. Student and faculty engagement with Penn State’s considerable materials/making resources in architecture, fine arts, and engineering is a hallmark of this cluster. MM – as a community of scholars, architects, and designers who fabricate, build, unbuild, and innovate – stimulates new knowledge through shared experience in an environment of creative innovation, hands-on exploration, and critical making.
- Benay Gürsoy Toykoç: computational making, digital fabrication, shape grammars, basic design education, cognitive studies of design processes
- Mehrdad Hadighi: drawing parallels among 20th century art, critical theory, and the constructive principles of architecture
- Frank Jacobus: making, ontology of the made object, process, design thinking, emerging technologies
- James Kalsbeek: architecture and memory; materials reclamation
- Esther Obonyo: architectural engineering, building construction
- DK Osseo-Asare: kiosk culture, microtecture, humanitarian material assemblies, sustainability, design innovation, open-source urbanism, architecture robots, digital and bio-fabrication
- Marcus Shaffer: The Machine in an architectural context, mechanization, and automation of construction/fabrication processes (existing and novel), autonomy in building/construction/fabrication in relation to human and mechanical production, construction/fabrication methods that range from hand craft to robotics/CNC, tectonic machine design and fabrication, cultural-ritual machines, machine design, machine-making, autonomous building machines, transmission of architectural knowledge, skills, and/or workmanship through tools and machines, architectural materials & processes exploration, DIY construction/fabrication
- Yasmine Abbas: atmosphere, neo-nomadism
- Pep Avilés: history of modern architecture, materialism and ornamentation, migrations and the avant-gardes, postmodern theory
- Felecia Davis: development and use of computational textiles and materials, wearable computing, augmented intelligence and intelligent environments
- Lisa Iulo: environmentally conscious design education, ecological design and planning, energy and resource efficient building and housing solutions, affordable housing, urban design, community-scale, renewable energy, integrative process, and project delivery methods
- Elizabeth Andrzejewski
- Tiffani Leung
- Mahan Motalebi
- Nusrat Tabassum
- Esmael Maalej
- John Martin
- Kiarat Vidal Rodriguez
- Alireza Zamani Samani
Section image: Orbital pattern definition of fufuzela (skeleton-skin) multi-speciation, by DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas.
Bamboo Architecture for Bio-digital Futures
Research into bio-digitally enabled bamboo building systems
Fufuzela: A Deployable Low-cost Bamboo Architecture for Bio-digital African Futures
Team: Oulimata Gueye, Cher Potter, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, Tiffanie Leung
Affiliations: HuMatLab, Æffect Lab, Material Matters Cluster (primary), Design Computing Cluster (affiliate), Stuckeman School, College of Arts and Architecture, SEDTAPP, College of Engineering, Materials Research Institute, RE2 Lab
Funding: Materials Research Institute, Stuckeman Collaborative Design Research Center, Le Lieu Unique (France), Victoria & Albert Museum (UK)
This project employs a transdisciplinary “humanitarian materials” approach to explore open design strategies for co-creation of deployable low-cost bamboo architecture (fufuzela) that reformat spaces of learning and making for bio-digital African futures. Global multi-partner team (USA, Europe, West Africa) seeks to advance transformal techniques for upcycled biocomposite material assemblies via design research that integrates materials methods and green architecture (modeling, simulation/form-finding, physical prototyping, testing/validation) with participatory future design, biodesign and African computation toward interactive architectural interfaces that enable environmental customization of spatial æffect and hyperspatial networking.
Orbital pattern definition of fufuzela (skeleton-skin) multi-speciation, by DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas.
Between System and Improvisation
Exploring the theoretical grounds of the work of Le Corbusier, the French/Swiss architect of 20th Century.
Between System and Improvisation: Le Corbusier’s Millowners Association Building
Lead Faculty: Mehrdad Hadighi
Scope: Archival research, modeling, and documentation of the building. Research of Towards a New Architecture and Le Corbusier’s other writings. Research in aesthetic theory.
Many scholars have identified Le Corbusier as an architect of the “International Style,” one of systems and prescriptions. Others, in contrast, have identified him in relation to his sculptural work, as an artist of plastic arts.This project, through archival research of his writings, drawings, correspondences, and notes, along with a deep exploration of one of his lesser-documented buildings, explores the relationship and disjuncture between his built and written theories, and presents his theoretical writings in a broader aesthetic context.
Between Serial Order and Improvisation
Between System and Improvisation: Donald Judd’s “100 untitled works in mill aluminum.”
Lead Faculty: Mehrdad Hadighi
Team: Collaboration with Mahyar Hadighi, Texas Tech University
Scope: Archival research, modeling, and documentation of individual objects and installation strategies; theory and shape grammar research.
Exploring the theoretical grounds of Judd’s 100 mill aluminum objects in order to see whether they belong to a systemic model and, if so, what that system is and what delimits it. The initial investigations point to systems that are tempered by improvisational moments at multiple junctures in the project.
Exploring the role of institutions in contemporary theory and politics through Bernard Tschumi’s Manifestoes of Architecture.
Lead Faculty: Mehrdad Hadighi
The research points to the dual role of institutions in contemporary politics, as both the thing against which rebellion occurs, and the instigator and shelter of rebellion. Published as a dual-language book.
Exploring labor and material practices as theoretical and political agents in architecture.
Lead Faculty: Mehrdad Hadighi
The foundation of this work is in the proposal that architectural ideas are always-already material, thus bringing together ideation and materialization. The material/theoretical practices are maintained through a range of projects, including commissions, competitions, installations, and publications.
Theses in Material Matters
From Waste Paper and Discarded Textiles to Board Stock: An Exploration of Household Waste as a Material Resource for Making, Andrew Lewis Chesakis (2019)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: Esther Obonyo (Architectural Engineering), DK Osseo-Asare
Responsive Skin: Designing an Adaptive Building Envelope for Warm-Humid Climate using Bamboo Veneer as a Hygroscopically Active Material, Manal Anis (2019)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: Benay Gürsoy Toykoç, Ute Poerschke
Fast, Low-Skilled, and Flexible Building Assembly: Revisiting the Joint-Based Universal Building System Through Low-Tech/High-Tech Fabrication Methods, Elizabeth Andrzejewski (2018)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: James Kalsbeek, Timothy Simpson (Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering), Steve White
The Ephemeral Dream Space: (Re)Activating an Evocative Architecture Through Computational Devices and Bodily Interaction, Nasim Motalebi (2017)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: José Duarte, Andrew Hieronymi
Machine, Block, Vault: Enhancing Earth-Built Architecture with Modified Construction Technology, Connor Pritz (2016)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: Mehrdad Hadighi, Ali Memari (Architectural Engineering)
Mechanizing Rammed Earth: Making New Earth Construction Viable in the US, Zoe Bick (2016)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: Mehrdad Hadighi, Daniel Willis
Heartwood: Pre-Design Towards the Conscientious Preservation, Renovation, or Re-Use of the Hall Log House, Chauntel Duriez (2016)
Adviser: James Kalsbeek | Committee: Richard Woodrow Pencek, Marcus Shaffer
Apparatus X: Activating the Architectural Activist, Aaron Wertman (2015)
Adviser: Marcus Shaffer | Committee: James Kalsbeek, Darla Lindberg
MM Research Posters
Low-Cost and Low-Impact Cardboard Formwork: Waste Cardboard as an Alternative for Single-Use Concrete Formwork
Julio Diarte, Marcus Shaffer, and Elena Vazquez
Using Waste Cardboard to Build and Sustain the Resilient City
An exhibition for the 2021 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (2021 SBAU)
Autonomous Builders Collective (ABC): Julio Diarte, Marcus Shaffer, and Elena Vazquez. Collaborator: Yun Kyung Gal
Developing Digi-Mechanical Formwork for Plastic Construction Materials: Testing Forming Capabilities and Motion Control Using 3D-Printed Working Models
Marcus Shaffer / Autonomous Builders Collective (ABC)
Re-Examining Sewn Earthbag Geometries and their Impact on Structure and Construction Workflow
Author: Tiffanie Leung, Advisers: Marcus Shaffer, DK Osseo-Asare, Committee: Felecia Davis, Esther Obonyo
Probing the Universal with Machines: Exploring the Potential of a CNC Plasma Cutter to Manufacture Parts-Based Industrial Housing
Marcus Shaffer and Elizabeth Andrzejewski
Konrad Wachsmann’s Shift from Product to Process: Location Orientation Manipulator
Konrad Wachsmann’s Shift from Product to Process: Prefiguring Automated Industrialized Building in Architecture through Developments in “Universal” Building Machines