Lecture: Material Cultures

The development of construction over the last 150 years has produced a complex range of elements in our buildings, many derived from fossil fuels or other unsustainable processes. This industrial, globalised ‘material culture’ is markedly different from that of earlier eras — where construction materials were few in number and tended to be local in origin.

We heard from Summer Islam and Paloma Gormley of Material Cultures about their recent work, which explores the application of high-tech processes to design buildings made from simple, local and ecologically unproblematic materials like earth, wood and hemp.

Material Cultures is a not-for-profit research organisation working at the intersection of low embodied carbon and high efficiency off-site construction. Their current work explores prototypical designs for low and high density housing, commercial and cultural uses, using simple, local and carbon negative material.

Talk: Materia Prima

Materia Prima came to Zattere to present their collaborative atlas of construction materials in Mexico.

Their project explores the relationship between the production of architecture and the intensive extraction of subsoil material and destruction of territory. They examine the transformations of landscape that architecture brings about – what they call “architecture extractivism.”

In its first stage, the project envisioned a collective composition of an atlas that aimed to visualise the aesthetic impact of the extractive industry on the landscape, its geographic location, and the radical transformations caused by its abrasive procedures; on a second stage, it sought to understand the multiple dimensions on which architecture can affect the lifecycle of materials, of the landscape and the territory.

Over the last year, Materia Prima has conducted more twenty field visits to different extraction sites in Mexico with the objective of better grasping the nuances of its first approach. Visiting these places allowed us to unfold the word “landscape” into several dimensions, such as (i) ecological landscape, (ii) social landscape, (iii) flows landscape, and (iv) landscapes of care.