ARC 593 LAB– Metamaterial

Course Preview Image
Course Details

Course No.: 10433

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2014 Fall

Location: Hayes B – 01K

Meeting Day(s): Friday

Meeting Time: 10:00AM - 12:40AM

Faculty: Silver


“With the flick of a switch: a wall becomes a window becomes a hologram generator… any rooftop a power or waste treatment plant.”


Wil McCarthy from “Hacking Matter”

The Architect’s ability to assess, adapt and actualize new modes of production is essential to his or her success in the field. Technology transfer is at the heart of this activity. Our seminar will serve as a broad overview of developments in the emerging science of Metamaterials and how they can be used to re-imagine design at scales as diverse as cities, buildings, clothing and consumer products. Metamaterials are man-made composites that possess unusual properties not readily found in nature. While they have been under development since the late 1960s the term was not formally coined until 1999 by University of Texas Professor, Rodger M. Walser. Walser describes these new kinds of matter as aggregate structures “…designed to produce an optimized combination of two or more responses to a specific excitation.”

Today, metamaterials are being employed in a wide range of manufactured devises from artificial limbs made of non-conventional alloys like muscle wire and bi-metals (3) to consumer electronics assembled from MEMS (tiny electro-mechanical processors) or chemically re-engineered DNA. (4)New techniques are being used to formulate products with dynamic physical properties including the ability to change shape, shield buildings from earthquakes, generate power from the sun, and form intercommunicative assemblies. Metamaterials are also being created with unique acoustic and optical characteristics. In the near future it might even be possible to build radically novel kinds of see-through structures using manufactured “cloaks” that physically bend light around their exteriors. With this seemingly miraculous capacity whole buildings and the functions they contain could be rendered completely invisible to the naked eye. In many ways metamaterials will encourage unprecedented connections between previously distinct fields, systems and spaces. The result could be a fundamental transformation of everyday life.

Drawing from existing technical literature, design theory and even science fiction students will explore the implications of an emerging technology and the potential impacts it will have on the future. The seminar will also serve as the organizing platform for a daylong Symposium held at the University of Buffalo, Department of Architecture in the spring of 2015. Students will be asked to actively participate in the event’s conceptual framing and organization through a series of readings, lectures, interviews and lab visits on North Campus. The class will also work with Birkhauser Publishers to produce a full-color, 275 page book commemorating the event.