Making Surfaces Material Learning

Presented by: Diana Nicholas

Problem Identified: Richard Sennet in his book “The Craftsman” explores a concept he refers to as “being as a thing” he maintains that at a certain point in the process of making, after a definite amount of time, the maker attains a mastery of fabricating and no longer feels a separation between their hand and the act of making (Sennet 2008). Lisa Iwamoto categorizes current modes of making in the following way: Sectioning, Tessellating, Folding, Contouring and Forming. (Iwamoto, 2009) All of these categories in some way relate to the way that the works have been produced or made with the machines available. Projects that use folding for example will employ parametrics to determine the relationship between form and material, in such a way that the form can be flattened for cutting on a router. A project that involves contouring might involve software to generate the tool paths for the machine that will rout the material. Each process is has its own set of criteria, constraints and challenges based on the methods of fabrication. The high demand of fidelity and investment for such digital practices raises the question of how to inculcate students in to a making practice that will bear fruit when the stakes are higher? How does the scale of the Interior inform this learning? Strategies Employed: This presentation approaches the problem of fabrication, the interior environment and learning as one in which students will build fidelity through making a set of surfaces exploring pattern, scale, light and translucency. The students during the term examined pattern, texture and materials producing their first set of materials boards following general instructions. The students then experimented with making their own interior “materials” in a panel divided into four quadrants. Four basic themes were assigned for consideration: opaque and heavy; translucent and light; translucent and deep; transparent and shallow. In addition, students are asked to keep the materials choices fairly simple and monochromatic: Plaster, Plexi-glass, basswood, concrete and metal were the base choices. The panels produced were to be drawn from the same scale as the material explorations earlier in the term. The scale of these explorations is decidedly interior and the students were encouraged to consider the repetition of one pattern through all four panel iterations. Each quadrant was considered as a translation through the crafting of these pattern based panels. Analysis of Outcomes: Student outcomes in iterative experimentation- create new areas for exploration and discussion. Students were assessed based on how far they were willing to push their explorations-either in terms of pattern, scale or material experimentation. The material ability and fluency of the students in terms of their production of a “material for the interior” will be examined in the presentation conclusion through a course survey and comparison of work. Students’ post course outcomes will examined in addition to the work of the course.


  • Hensel, Michael; Menges, Achim; Weinstock, Michael (2013-09-13). Emergent Technologies and Design: Towards a Biological Paradigm for Architecture (Kindle Locations 2122-2126). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  • Brown, Rachael; Farrelly, Lorraine (2012-10-01). Materials and Interior Design (Portfolio Skills) (Kindle Locations 1077-1079). Laurence King. Kindle Edition
  • Dunn, Nick. Architectural Modelmaking. Portfolio Skills Architecture. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2012.
  • Iwamoto, Lisa. Digital Fabrications : Architectural and Material Techniques. Architecture Briefs. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.
  • Sennett, Richard, and ebrary Inc. The Craftsman. Click for resource.
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