Will architects also become designers of material?

Part of the Building Innovation series, this panel session with architects on Thursday saw designers from around the world (Beijing, Los Angeles, Paris and Copenhagen) gather to discuss themes of research, innovation, sustainability and the future of architectural design. Chaired by architect and author Terri Peters, the panelists looked at how architects are using new technologies, research and development, and sustainable design strategies to create innovative architecture.

The presentation by Kim Herforth Nielsen, co-founder of 3XN Architects in Denmark, revealed how his office focuses on interpreting user needs adding value by bringing fresh new ideas to an ordinary budget using research and innovation. Illustrating the office´s philosophy that architecture has the power to positively shape user behaviour, the impressive Horten Law Offices in Copenhagen is also example of their applied research, and the project tested a new façade material developed by the office´s sustainability research team.  Will architects of the future be designers of material and behaviour as well as form?

Tobias Nolte, director of Gehry Technologies Europe explained their unique approach to design to fabrication consulting and cutting edge advancements in building information modeling.  Nolte introduced their new web based software which enables remote working on shared 3D models to improve the design process and facilitate communication within design teams.  Consulting to top international offices like Zaha Hadid and Snøhetta, their work asks: How can technology be used to improve the way designers work together?

Thomas Willemeit of Graft Architects presented their office´s approach to performance, focusing on local conditions and context to develop innovative sustainable strategies. Graft is known for their unconventional approaches to program, and he showed a high concept dentist´s office that looked like a nightclub, and designs for buildings that generate surplus energy that can give back to their environment. When designing for performance, how can inspiration from art, product design, materials research and climate, create innovative architecture?

Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects in China presented his ideas about new ways of living in cites, integrating nature and building density. He illustrated his ideas with their newly completed towers in Mississauga Canada, dubbed the “Marilyn Monroe towers” by the local press, for their seductive, leaning shapes.  MAD used architectural form rather than technologies to create shading on the façade and focused the design around views, light and spatial qualities.  He revealed that this was originally a commission for one tower, but after the first 500 units pre-sold on the first day, a second tower was designed. He asked: How can architects use the latest technologies yet build timeless architecture?

Terri Peters is an architect and critic based in Copenhagen.

Top image credit : Photobank gallery

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