Term: Fall 2020
Section: 16
Class Number: 509
Credits: 3
Required: No
Elective: Yes

/ ARCH 509


We are in a moment of material reckoning. A culture of stuff-everywhere-yet-ads-for-more has created a climate of exhaustion, both physical and virtual. In this counterproductive muchness, excess and scarcity can be simultaneous, as even not having a lot is defined by excess elsewhere. Circulated by an ever tightening culture-commodity loop that makes what is culture today, product tomorrow, this materialism can be a main cause of social inequity and the climate crisis alike. In this seminar we will trace and visualize the material pressures around us; quantifying the amounts of matter and hype; rendering explicit the less defined aspects of what constitute our tangible environments. From extraction practices to distribution centers to Pinterest boards, architecture is implicated in all aspects and scales of the commodity loop. Spanning from the territorial to the architectural to the aesthetic and the personal, we will adopt a multiscalar research strategy that attempts to define a socio-logistical condition where the material and the informational, the personal and the global are entangled. Here, the geopolitical can exist within a single steel bolt or its image.


This seminar will foreground designers and thinkers who are proposing alternative models of existing within material culture, particularly those investigating systematic and aesthetic models that divert commodities from their common commercial loops. We will cover topics such as: queer economies, furniture ownership, mutual aid, the value of cheapness, prop rentals, material racial injustice and return policies. This seminar asks: how do we establish new material paradigms that might invert or otherwise divert resources from the existing culture-commodity loop while speculating on future methods of accountability in the material project? Looking beyond known models of “reduce, reuse, recycle” this seminar explores material after materialism, life post-stuff, the role of aesthetics in that transition and the economic models that support it.

Each week we will explore a specific practice, a mode of material circulation or a commodity category through a multiscalar lens; spanning from object to detail to place to industry to media. In the second half of the semester, students will apply this multiscalar template to a commodity category of their own choosing by performing small cumulative research exercises. This research will conclude in a public website.


Class Instruction Mode:  Online

Tue  8:30-11:30am