Thematic Projects 2012-2013

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Trimester 1 & 4: September – December 2012

“The transcendent quality Herzog & de Meuron seek in materials must spring from within a project after those materials have been removed from where they normally occur or have been divested of the purposes for which they are customarily employed. Within the tight matrix of utility and convention, materials offer no resistance. Only when altered or removed from the field of conventional reference can materials assume a specifically architectural purpose. It is precisely, and solely, from the discrepancy between their familiar purpose and a newly invented one that materials acquire character. “Character” as such came to be recognized, at least since the Enlightenment, as the key to a buildingʼs distinctive nature, virtually its signature, and hence its “Wirklichkeit” or reality.”

Pieces for Four and More Hands, Kurt W. Foster, NATURAL HISTORY, Herzog & de Mueron, 2005, Lars Muller Publishers.


The thematic design project Transcendental Matter works on several fronts. It looks at the opportunities inherent in exploiting material behavior and tectonic assemblies to create adaptive material systems at the scale of the interior. We will examine the concept and feasibility of adaptable systems ʻas negotiatorʼ of spatial and programmatic flexibility in space, while testing physical matter and its phenomenological affects.

The project is structured as a design competition for the clients IOI, Institute for Applied Research of Rotterdam University. The participating designers will work in teams in a research by making approach to design. The teams are asked to analyze and decode research centers and other related typologies and programs to offer the clients alternative and innovative design strategies for the programming and future ʻplaceʼ of research.

Material Systems

A fundamental component to the trimesterʼs design research is to investigate the making and designing of “material systems” as adaptive design strategies for interior application and use. Students will rigorously explore materials, their behavior and specific construction techniques to design multi-unit systems. These systems will need to adapt and perform various programmatic roles throughout a given space. The data used to affect the “adaptive aspect” of the system is to be developed and programmed based on the studentsʼ research and concept. During an intensive experimental “making” phase, numerous prototypes and multiple components will be produced as aggregated units to study the systems. These physical prototypes will be used to test the systemʼs characteristics, material limits, techniques, assembly and application. Additionally, the prototypes will be analyzed for their structural and non-structural capacities, formal and spatial affects and its ability to adapt and change to content.

Fabrication | Construction Techniques:


Design Competition

Transcendental Matter is organized as a MIARD design/student competition that will accumulate during public presentations scheduled for December 2012. IOI, the Institute for Applied Research of Rotterdam University, exclusively invited MIARD to generate “a new vision for their research facilities” at their existing site in the Coolhaven area of Rotterdam.

A design jury will judge the competition. The jury will be a mix of instructors, invited external design critics and selected members that will represent the IOI clients.