Material Imagination / Reconnecting with the matter of architecture

A two day symposium on material culture

On November 28 and 29 Aarhus School of Architecture will host a two-day symposium on Material Imagination and digital fabrication.

Keynote speakers:
Adrian Forty, professor emeritus at The Bartlett UCL London, recognised for his writings on language and architecture and material culture.
Ákos Moravánszky, professor emeritus at ETH Zürich, recognised for his studies in the materiality of architecture, including material change in architecture (metamorphism).
Paul Emmons, professor at WAAC/Virginia Tech, recognised for his studies in the material imagination and the imaginative role of diagrams and technical drawing in architectural design.
Anupama Kundoo, founder of Anupama Kundoo architect, recognized for a number of outstanding projects and buildings where material character and behaviour plays a significant role.

The material imagination recognizes that there is an oneiric dimension to materials deeply within our individual and collective psyche. The concept “material imagination” was pioneered by the French chemist-philosopher, Gaston Bachelard, who first identified it as a separate field with the psychoanalysis of material images represented in the four elements earth, air, fire and water. It was carried forward into a historical-cultural context by the Austrian philosopher and critic, Ivan Illich, who coined the idea of the “historicity of stuff,” claiming that materials have their own lineage of cultural perceptions embedded in them, often hidden from our conscious perception. The architect and writer Marco Frascari connected the material imagination to architecture, calling for the architect to develop an “imagination of and by materials”. The material imagination claims we have relationships with materials that depend on the complexity of perception beyond the bifurcation of empiricism and aesthetics, a notion disclosed in the idea of the reverie, or material day-dream.

The symposium is arranged by a group of researchers from the Aarhus School of Architecture, who runs a three years project entitled “Material Imagination – reconnecting with the matter of architecture”, granted by the Danish Council for Independent Research. This project takes as its point of departure in the notion that we share a personal and collective material imagination, and that it is precisely a concrete notion of materiality and its connection to our everyday lives that is missing from the current field of digitally motivated materials research, which to a large degree, is reflected in contemporary architecture. Starting with common building materials, such as stone, wood and concrete, the project is bound together by a common interest in the historical and cultural aspect of materials in relation to digital means of design and fabrication. The material imagination thus opens a door for digitally-based material research that has broad applicability across technical fields as well as deep understanding of the nature of materials as having an inseparable relationship to our daily experiences.

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The researchers connected to the project are ph.d. student Jon Krähling Engholdt, post doc Anders Kruse Aargaard, assistant professor Carolina Dayer, associate professors Bob Trempe, Jonathan Foote, Niels Martin Larsen, and professors Karl Christiansen and Thomas Bo Jensen. The team will present papers and initial material experiments, connected to the project. External partners are senior lecturer Matthew Mindrup, University of Sydney, professor Mari Hvattum, AHO Oslo, associate professor Martin Tamke and professor Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen, both CITA, KADK.

When: November 28 & 29
Where: Aarhus School of Architecture

Sign up

If you wish to participate in the symposium, you can sign up using this link.

Initial program

Initial program (changes can occur)

Wednesday 28:
08:45 Coffee
09:15 Welcome/Introduction
09:30 Keynote lecture 1, Paul Emmons: Keeping in Touch: Multi-Sensorality and the Material Imagination.
10.30 Coffee
10:45 Material Imagination presentation 1, Thomas Bo Jensen: The pure form and the impure association
11:15 Material Imagination presentation 2, Carolina Dayer: The Erotic House
11:45 Panel discussion with keynote speakers
12:15 Lunch break
13:15 Keynote lecture 2, Ákos Moravánszky: Housing the Four Elements – Gottfried Semper and the Theory of Metamorphism
14:15 Coffee
14:30 Material Imagination presentation 3, Jonathan Foote: Acheiropoietic tales of the lithic imagination
15.00 Keynote lecture 3, Adrian Forty: Love and Hate Amongst the Stones – on the affective nature of materials
16.00 Panel discussion with keynote speakers
16:30 Happy hour
17.30 Keynote lecture 4, Anupama Kundoo: Building Knowledge, Building Community. In collaboration with Nordic Perspectives (NB: at the Navitas’ auditorium)

Thursday 29:
09:00 Coffee
09:15 Material presentation 1: Jon Krähling Engholdt and Karl Christiansen
Articulating concrete – errors of materialization
10:00 Material presentation 2: Anders Kruse Aagaard and Niels Martin Larsen
Embedded wood properties through digital fabrication
10:45 Coffee
11:00 Material presentation 3: Bob Trempe and Jonathan Foote
New demonstrations in Nordic marble
11:45 Final panel discussion with keynote speakers from yesterday
12:30 Round-off and goodbye

Further info