​Material Turn spring thesis work: Mimmi Amini and Julia Dandebo (left), Humda Malik (middle), and Joel Montgomery Claesson (right)

Material Turn

ACEX35​ Master’s thesis direction, 2019/2020

In fact, novel things always include elements of surprise, uncertainty, and the unknown, all of which are located outside the sphere of prediction (Mathias Gross)

Description and aim

Material Turn considers architecture in a world that is increasingly conditioned by material networks. Architects are no longer restricted to a palette of building materials defined by disciplinary tradition, craft or tool sets. Our basic set of representation techniques have been complemented with a host of new design mediums that straddle the abstract space of the digital drawing and the concrete, material world. Material Turn creatively explores the opportunities as well as the constraints of this emergent condition. It investigates how matter and geometry, fuelled by alternative instruments of design, representation and production, can inform architectural design.

Material Turn acknowledges that architecture has moved past the digital turn. The technologies that once revolutionized the discipline has now become integrated into most corners of practice and academia as well as into everyday life. What once occurred exclusively on computer screens has found its way into the material world through fabrication, augmented reality and machine vision. This leaves us in a situation where high tech and low tech, the visionary and the mundane, digital and analogue, as well as representation and reality exist in a messy state of continuity.

Rather than signalling a turn away from the digital, Material Turn promotes design and research that rethink the way in which architecture may engage with now everpresent digitality and computation. Architectural design within Material Turn may target representation and translations between media; alternative interpretations of fundamental architectural concepts like form, tectonics and materiality; altered vision and perception; as well as changing conditions for architectural practice. A central interest for Material Turn is the link between design and research technique and the production of architectural qualities.

Method and process​

Material Turn is aligned with a design research approach. This means that design and data collection and research happen in tandem, rather than one happening before the other. Activity during the master’s thesis will drift between rigorous, openended design explorations and formulation of arguments through academic scholarship. Design work is not a proof of concept that follows from a theoretical statement. Similarly, research is not something that can be swung in order to justify a design. It is the interplay between the two that is of value. Supervision and reviews during the thesis will support the student in identifying moments when design makes it possible to address a research-oriented query, or when arguments developed through reading and precedent studies suggest an approach to design.

Throughout the thesis, drawings, models and mock-ups and other types of media are developed iteratively. Emphasis is on how concepts and qualities are cultivated through translations and adjacencies between media (analogue-digital, drawingmodel, or similar).

Thesis booklet
A continuously evolving Thesis booklet should be used as an active part in the design process. The student’s production will be carefully documented, edited and annotated in order to be integrated into the booklet on a weekly basis. Information becomes diagrams, sketches are scanned, models photographed, analysis is concluded, references to work or readings are reformulated and turned into arguments, conclusions are formed as design and research intertwines.

Specific evaluation criteria

In addition to the common evaluation criteria defined for the master’s thesis at Chalmers School of Architecture, Material Turn places special emphasis on the following aspects:

The comprehensiveness of the thesis – its ability to productively span from design to a particular and current discourse and/or research context.

Ability to use technology and/or matter as a design medium to uncover new ideas, methods, or ways to practice architecture.

Specific submission requirements

Students submit their work for review during the thesis semester as follows:

Intro session
Due: Intro session at the beginning of the semester
Submission: Project plan / Thesis prep booklet (completed)

Interim seminar 1
Due: ¼ of semester
Presentation: Verbal presentation and review in 20 mins slots
Submission: Wall presentation posters, models, etc. and Thesis booklet
Guidelines: Work-in-progress presentation focusing on thesis statement / question, context (site and references), concepts, design and / or material studies and anticipated designed outcome.​

Mid-term seminar
Due: ½ of semester
Presentation: Verbal presentation and review in 50 mins slots
Submission: Wall presentation posters, models, etc. The chosen media (drawings, models, video, etc.) of the presentation should suggest the final mode of presentation.
Guidelines: A comprehensive presentation of thesis design work to date. The presentation should suggest the final designed outcome and scope of the project of the thesis and go beyond a presentation of studies, references, tests, analysis, etc.

Interim seminar 2
Due: ¾ of semester
Presentation: Verbal presentation and review in 20 mins slots
Submission: Wall presentation posters, models, etc. and Thesis booklet
Guidelines: A complete mock-up of final thesis presentation, including draft versions / placeholders for all items to be included. The presentation should make it possible to assess the relationship between the thesis (how the project is framed and formulated through title, abstract, references, etc.) and the final designed outcome.

Final seminar
Due: End of semester
Presentation: Verbal presentation and review in 50 mins slots
Submission: Wall presentation posters, models, etc.
Guidelines: A complete project presentation of final design that is assessed by a reviewer and direction faculty.
Examination: Pass / Fail

Public presentation
Due: End of semester
Presentation: Verbal presentation and review in 50 mins slots
Submission: Wall presentation posters, models, etc. and Thesis booklet
Guidelines: A complete project presentation of final design that is assessed by a Review Committee member and direction faculty. Final draft of Thesis booklet.

Final submission
Due: After end of semester
Submission: Wall presentation posters, models, etc. (completed) and Thesis booklet

Suggested literature and projects

Several of the texts below contain extensive presentations of, or references to, architecture projects and practices​.

Borden, Gail Peter and Michael Meredith. 2018. “Introduction and Material Premise.” In Lineament: Material, Representation and the Physical Figure in Architectural Production, 1-4. Oxon: Routledge.

Borden, Gail Peter and Michael Meredith. 2012. “Introduction: Foreign Matter.” In Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production, 1-6. Oxon: Routledge.

Carpo, Mario. 2017. The Second Digital Turn: Design Beyond IntelligenceCambridge: The MIT Press.

Cramer, Florian. 2015. “What is ‘Post-digital’?” In Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design, edited by David M. Berry and Michael Dieter, 12-26. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gross, Matthias. 2010. “Introduction: Brave the Unknown.” In Ignorance and Surprise: Science, Society, and Ecological Design, 1-10. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Lavin, Sylvia. 2012. “Vanishing Point: Sylvia Lavin on the Contemporary Pavilion,” in Artforum, October, 2012: online access.

Reiser, Jesse and Nanako Umemoto. 2006. Atlas of Novel Tectonics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Exemplary thesis projects from Material Turn 2016-2018

Hjalmar Bolinder
Stories Below: The Park as a Palimpsest of Fact and Fiction
To be made available

Nils Claesson

Joel Montgomery Claesson
It’s not a Bug, it’s a Feature: A Post-digital Exploration of Architecture and Digital Context
To be made available

Julia Dandebo and Mimmi Amini

Erik Hadin and Emily-Claire Nordang

Joel Hilmersson
BORDERLINE BODIES - Integrating structural geometry within a resilient, architectural framework
To be made available

Per Hultcrantz

Sofia Jernberg and Ellen Pleil

Myrra Lindholm
This is Awkward: Architectural Glitching, Ambiguity and the Attack on Perfection
To be made available

Jens Ljunggren
Stranger Things: Extending Architecture Through Defamiliarization
To be made available

Amanda Eliasson

Erik Widell

Humda Malik

Sara V Olsson
An Act of Accumulation: A Wunderkammer in Lorensberg
To be made available

Kongshen Xia

Marie-Lou Valdes
Rain Pavilion: Playful Architecture using Biomimetics & Kinetics
To be made available

Yiwen Zhou
Perceiving Spatial Layers: Addressing Privacy in Assisted Living Facility through Interfaces Design

Wenhui Bi

Direction faculty

Karin Hedlund, Artistic lecturer – supervisor
Jonas Lundberg, Lecturer – examiner and supervisor
Daniel Norell, Lecturer – examiner and supervisor
Jonas Runberger, Artistic professor – supervisor​
Kengo Skorick, Artistic senior lecturer – examiner and supervisor

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2018. Modified: Thu 12 Sep 2019