New Materials and Technologies

OVERVIEW…In normative design approaches, a single design state is usually created. The surface, the wall, and the envelope typically serve as the material bounds that define space and enclose a homogeneous environment. The static architectural artifact with unchangeable physical properties or behaviors is accepted as a datum. Materials are chosen to optimize the single design state. Geometry is normally privileged over behavioral characteristics. During the last decade, new materials have been developed with transient or changeable properties that allow a multiplicity of design states to be affected, rather than the singularly optimized state that is typified by the static artifact. For example, photochromic materials change opacity in response to solar radiation, and are thus capable of dynamically adjusting the light transmission through glazing to either shield or admit available sunlight. Furthermore, advances in physics have led to a new understanding of transient phenomena, particularly those that comprise the luminous, acoustic and thermal environments of buildings. New technologies are rapidly being developed that allow for more discrete control of these environments; examples of these technologies include fiber optics and micro-machines.Architects have tried to embrace many of these new materials and technologies, but most have done so within the paradigm of the hegemonic architectural artifact and, as such, we most often see them inserted into the artifact or as adjunct to the artifact. Developing an approach that fully exploits the potential of these new materials and technologies may require inverting the relationship between architecture and the environment: the architectural artifact is instead inserted into the environment and is contingent on the environment. This seminar experiments with this inversion, and seeks to develop the needed enabling technologies. The course is organized according to a study of the following material and technology hierarchy:High performance materials \”Designed\” materials\”Smart Materials I Property changing materials – photochromics, electrochromics, etc. Smart Materials II Energy exchanging materials – luminescents, piezoelectrics, etc. Smart Devices or Assemblies Assemblies of smart materials for controlling of multiple behaviors in elementsSmart or Intelligent EnvironmentsConfigurations of smart devices or assemblies intended to create multiple design states in spatial environmentsDESCRIPTION…Lectures, field trips and workshop sessions will introduce the students to the wide array of new materials and technologies outlined in the above hierarchy. In the first phase of the course, lectures will be given on the basic types and characteristics of smart materials. In a sequence of workshop exercises, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience during several of the workshop sessions and are expected to be able to build working models and devices that demonstrate the behavioral characteristics of several selected materials and technologies. For example, a student may produce a component from shape memory alloys or build a device using fiber optics. In the second phase of the course, students will make seminar presentations during which each student will focus in-depth on a particular product that uses smart materials and/or technologies. A typical seminar presentation might provide an in-depth explanation of a luminescent product, followed by an overview of its different applications in multiple design milieus.The final phase of the course is devoted to the reconfiguration of the architectural artifact through the exploitation of these new materials and technologies. Within an assigned context, students will develop individual final projects that explore specific aspects of immaterial space and/or environments t