Material Mechanisms New technology changes collaboration in the building sector as well as the possibilities to imagine, produce and analyse material assemblages; scientific developments in material technology and biology change notions and understandings of how living systems evolve and maintain themselves, and how material systems emerge and interact with their contexts; new knowledge, techniques and parametric tools produce dynamic understandings and experiences of material structures and environments. This theme addresses demands of integrated thinking, how technological development influence notions of materiality and making, and what theories architects use and need in the analyses and generation of artefacts, assemblies or systems. Studies will consider both the formation of assemblages and the role of artefacts in design and research processes.
Investigative modelling ICT technologies and digital tools have fundamentally affected architectural practice during the last decades. They have changed the organisation and process of design and have reconditioned the conceptualisation of architectural projects and their materiality. Projective modelling programs and visualisation methods, increasingly adapted to hands-on, embodied interaction, effect the interface between architectural design and other disciplines, and create new areas of consultancy in design disciplines. Simulation, that quantitatively model highly complex systems, reconfigure the boundaries of what can be tested within projects. Yet architectural practice plays into an industry of procurement whose structures tend to be remarkably traditional. There are areas in which the potential of digital processes is hardly being exploited or where the potential of designerly thinking is currently limited. This theme deals with issues of changes and potentials in processes of architectural production.
Alteration In post-industrial societies clusters of ‘problems’ in the built environment revolve around the question of how to re-use and transform the existing. There is an urgent and obvious sustainable significance in re-use, at the level of urban resilience, urban identity and energy use. In this situation architects’ core activities are increasingly concerned with what can be termed alteration. But educational, practice and procurement structures in architecture and the building industry are still mortgaged to the logic of new construction, and architectural agency remains tied to ideas of original intention and authorship. Alteration, then, calls for a fundamental re-thinking of the role of the architect at all levels from education to implementation. As of now, only the beginnings of a ‘theory’ of alteration as a central condition of architectural practice exist. This theme addresses these urgent matters and relates to changes in the architectural profession.
History deals both with precedent and building culture. Architectural knowledge is to a large extent a repertoire of models for architectural thinking inscribed in the material culture of buildings. History can also give an understanding of ‘building cultures’, the systems of procurement and construction that surround architectural thinking. The time aspect of architecture is central for sustainability, not to be limited to the buildings as “finished”, but including their making and development. We need to develop theories and methods for an “extended field” of architectural history, including an understanding of the dynamics of building cultures and of new techniques that are entering history, including digital tools that reveal the behaviour of existing environments both socially, climatically and materially