Architecture's Material Presence

The revolutionary promises of a digital age, a post-post modern moment has been hum within the architecture scene, both in academic and professional circles, for the past fifteen years.  Even though architects have folded, blobbed, and boxed, facilitated by cutting edge software and souped-up hardware, these new ergonomic forms met their limits when they journeyed from cyberspace and hit the gypsum wallboard of the physical realm. What new pedagogical approaches, as in the work of Thom Faulder's studio at CCA, examine the limits of the material presence of architecture?


“Its not so much a question of rationalizing existing working methods as of fundamentally remoulding the whole building trade,” thus wrote modern architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe in his 1924 essay “Industrialized Building.”  Witnessing the incremental transformations in all facets of everyday life, Mies considers how industrialization was radically impacting all fields, including architecture.  With modernization, he pens, come solutions to pressing economic, social, technical, and artistic challenges.  It was widely believed during this period that with the introduction new building techniques, in the realm of prefabrication, for instance, economic and time saving measures could be introduced into the building process.  Mies, however, saw little promise in this strategy, astutely surmising that any new method of building, “in no way changes the manual character of building.”  In other words, brawn, muscle, and traditional methods of brick laying, timber framing, and incremental batch pouring of concrete still prevailed in the building trades.  Instead of changing the methods of construction, Mies countered that the, “industrialization of the building trade is a question of material.”  The key to modernizing the construction industry, he reasoned, was to seek out new materials.  Those materials manufactured to be lightweight, weatherproof, sound dampening, and responsive insulators would be the generator of a truly modern architecture.  He believed that the ideal moment in which to introduce new technologies and techniques was in the process of the manufacturing of new materials.  And as a result of these innovations, Mies speculated, on site construction time and cost could be greatly reduced.