ARC 543 LAB– Toward a materials primer for designers

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Course Details

Course No.: 24814

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2018 Fall

Location: Parker – 24

Meeting Day(s): Thursday

Meeting Time: 8:10AM - 10:50AM

Faculty: Davidson

Faculty: Davidson

In this technical methods seminar, we will conduct research into a wide variety of materials, both known materials and less known materials, used or potentially usable within the realm of architecture and design.


For each material that students are assigned, a 4-prong approach to research will be used:


Firstly, students will use the “what exactly is…” mode of investigation and presentation, which aims to uncover the elemental roots of material – what they’re made of and where they come from. The idea of the “what exactly is…” approach is to get to the bottom of something and really understand it. For example, what exactly is clay? Though we are familiar with a readily available material like clay, what exactly is it? What is it made-up of? How is it formed? What types of clay exist and what are the differences between them? The “what exactly is…” mode of investigation reveals that, within each material, there is an entire world of chemical, environmental and physical knowledge to attain. No material is as simple and straightforward as it might seem!


Secondly, students will obtain a small quantity of whatever material they’re assigned, and conduct basic experiments to develop an understanding of the physical properties and behaviors of the material, using an empirical approach.


Thirdly, students will endeavor to understand the chemical make-up of their assigned material as well as the molecular structure; microscopy will be used for this process.


And finally, students will look at current examples (construction processes, specific products and buildings) that incorporate their assigned material.


Students will work in pairs and conduct research on a wide variety of materials throughout the semester, assigned by the instructor. An in-depth understanding of the properties of various materials will help students in a myriad of ways both when they handle materials in other courses, and when they enter the field of design professionally. The idea is to develop a basic understanding about a variety of materials that goes deeper than a material or product “spec sheet” or “technical data sheet.” Students should develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, how many materials are generated by the earth, taking hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.


Image: SEM (scanning electron microscope) of paper