Architecture’s Material Matters Research Cluster Connects at a Global Level

Penn State Architecture’s Material Matters (MM) research cluster provides students with opportunities to delve into the interaction of materials and processes. MM research ranges from material properties exploration to applied process-based design, and encompasses a wide range of creative interests that find common ground in the power of material as a 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.

Associate professor Marcus Shaffer says, “As we have gotten our legs, or built momentum in the group, our primary focus has been on ‘making’ as a methodology. We have had to work against the grain a bit, to establish a more empirical approach to proposing research and testing it.” Now that the group has experience, their system is more defined, and they are moving on to focusing on disseminating the research.

With new methods and research burgeoning from the MM cluster, they are beginning to connect globally. The group recently had four papers accepted for presentation at WASCON ’18. This is the 10th annual International Conference on the Environmental and Technical Implications of Construction with Alternative Materials. The conference is thematically entitled, “No Cradle, No Grave: Circular Economy into Practice,” and it will take place in Tampere, Finland, from June 6-8, 2018.

The group has more than one reason to be excited about this development: the students and faculty are doing original work and they are being invited to share that work globally, and the international conference (on alternative building materials and processes) has acknowledged the MM group as part of a larger community addressing shared concerns. “Our work and what we do here at Penn State has officially arrived on the scene,” says Shaffer.

Presentations and authors:  MM at WASCON ’18

  • Associate Prof. James Kalsbeek will present, No Graves or Good Graves? Death with Dignity, Architectural Hospice and the Palliative Care of Architecture Materials
  • Associate Prof. Marcus Shaffer will present, Developing Machine-based, Re-usable Alternatives to Hand-set Concrete Formwork Systems
  • Ph.D. candidate Julio Diarte & Marcus Shaffer will present, Urban Recycling Intervention: Devising Low-tech Tools for Transforming Old Corrugated Cardboard Into Building Elements and Construction Materials
  • MS in Arch student Lizz Andrzejewski will present a poster detailing her thesis work, Customization for the Masses: Revisiting the Universal Joint Through Low and High Technologies