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Provost's Imagine Fund for Arts and Humanities

Sustainable Material Futures in Architecture

Architectural design and building construction practices are currently undergoing significant transformations based on the accelerating global consumption of resources, the widespread detrimental environmental effects of industrial-era processes, and the pivotal shift from a hydrocarbon- to a carbohydrate-based economy. Because buildings are responsible for the utilization of nearly half of all resources, this unprecedented set of circumstances demands the fundamental reconsideration of traditional material approaches in architecture.

Despite the importance of material innovation in advancing architecture, there is a notable dearth of scholarship concerning the opportunities provided by new materials and the ways in which new material applications can transform architectural practice and theory. My long-term objective is to develop a critical framework for assessing the technological development and environmental influence of materials in architecture, in order to reveal consequential trajectories as well as recognize and exploit future opportunities for innovation.

The world exposition provides a unique context in which to explore new material ideas in architecture. Since the construction of the groundbreaking Crystal Palace at the London Great Exhibition in 1851, the world's fair has served as a laboratory for the full-scale testing of advanced building techniques developed to solve contemporary problems and offer an improved way of life. The next world's fair, Expo 2015 in Milan, will focus on food and nutrition, and will showcase significant new building technologies based on renewable agricultural resources. I aim to visit the 2015 Milan exposition in order to further my research on this topic for a future book.

First Name: 
Blaine
Last Name: 
Brownell
E-mail Address: 
Campus: 
Twin Cities
Department: 
Architecture