Beaman on “Materials as Collections”
Michael Beaman (Critic, Interior Architecture) recently presented at the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS), hosted by the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The NCBDS is a national peer review scholarly gathering dedicated to the study and practice of beginning design education. Celebrating 30 years at the 2014 conference, the NCBDS has provided a forum for design educators to present papers and projects and hold discussions related to introductory design issues.
An overview of the presentation, “Materials as Collections,” may be found below.
Michael Leighton Beaman
Rhode Island School of Design
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Within our current digital infrastructure, information is what moves between media, platforms, and disciplines. This quality has rendered design practice increasingly dependent on the ability to effectively work with information – access, analysis, manipulation, and formulation. Though this has arguably always been a tacit function of design, the emergence of digitally based design methodologies has made it an explicit one for designers. This realization in the general public, and what has become an expectation among both students and clients alike, is a product of our evolving relationship with computational media and a cultural dependence on information-based production.
To understand a material is to understand the collections of information, which define them. From chemical properties to application history, materials are the manifestations of manifold information sets. In creating a pedagogical approach to how one utilizes materials in the design process, the ability to access, analyze, organize, and manipulate information is paramount.
In an academic setting, where research and innovation are on equal footing with practical know-how, the question of a materials-based pedagogy for design education is one we were interested in developing alternative answers to. By re-contextualizing materials as information sets, we sought to embed materials research into the core of the design process. With combined backgrounds in three different design disciplines (architecture, landscape architecture, and industrial design), we also were invested in developing materials-based pedagogies within the larger question of interdisciplinary design education. To do this, we began by examining the role of information in structuring how we work with materials.