Interstices 14 (Under Construction)

Immaterial materialities

March 7, 2012

Call for Papers

The University of Technology Sydney, Schools of Architecture and Design, 28–30 November 2012

keynote speakers:

Professor Jonathan Hill, The Bartlett – University College London

Professor Philip Ursprung, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

UTS materiality lab 2011

immaterial materialities: materiality and interactivity in art and architecture

Materiality has recently claimed centre stage in architectural discourse and practice, yet its critical meaning is ever receding. Tropes like material honesty, digital materiality, material responsiveness and dematerialisation mark out an interdisciplinary field where scientific fact and artistic experimentation interact, and where what in fact constitutes materiality and immateriality is constantly re-imagined.

As a reaction to developments in science, materiality came under scrutiny with the emergence of nineteenth century German aesthetics (Vischer, Schmarsow) and the early avant-garde projects (Lissitzky, van Doesburg). Initiating an epistemic shift in art and architecture, these works pointed to the connection between the material properties of objects and spaces and their interaction with the inhabitant through psycho-perceptual effects. These ideas re-emerged transformed in the work of the Neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s.

More recent approaches deploy materials as mediators or activating agents that probe the relationship between audience/user and physical environment: Spatial investigations with phenomena-producing materials such as water, light, colour and temperature experiment with the viewer’s experience (Eliasson); responsive high-tech materials interact with audiences (Spuybroek); weather architectures (Hill), or atmo architectures (Sloterdijk) technologically re-create nature as spatial experience (Diller and Scofidio).

Materials can give rise to seemingly incompatible connotations: photographic representations of Zumthor’s atmospheric concrete spaces reveal unexpected links with the post-industrial spaces of power plants and cooling towers (Ursprung). In the Pacific region, space has eminently temporal aspects and, particularly in indigenous buildings, rare walls are permeable and breathing. At the same time, the popular use of low-cost materials such as corrugated metal connects the wool-shed, the beach house and industrial estates educing trans-historical, cross-cultural, and climatic associations. In architectural practice and education, experiments in material-oriented computational design explore the design potential of conventional construction materials.

All these approaches probe boundaries – between material and immaterial, art and science, practice and theory, representation and experience, tradition and innovation, and producer/object/user, giving rise to the following concerns:

What is the validity of different approaches to materiality in relation to the vital problems of our time?

Can materials be deployed to create environments which predict user behaviour and control social relations and experiences?

What trans-historical correspondences can be detected in contemporary approaches to materiality, and how do these challenge, imitate and expand on previous thinking?

Please send a 500-word abstract and a short cv to Sandra Karina Löschke ( by 25 June 2012. Notifications will be sent out by 23 July, 2012. Double-blind refereed abstracts, if accepted, will be published on the Interstices website ( The symposium will be followed by a call for papers for Issue 14 of Interstices: A Journal of Architecture and Related Arts on the same topic.