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Material Culture

The Material Culture Graduate Research Group builds on Buffalo and the Niagara Region’s legacy of material innovation, from infrastructural experiments in moving goods to slip-forming construction of concrete silos. 

ma·te·ri·al:

  • the substance or thing from which something is or can be made
  • of matter, of substance; relating to or consisting of what occupies space
  • of the body or bodily needs; corporeal, sensual or sensuous

cul·ture:

  • intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced
  • the products of human work and thought
  • the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively

The history of the city of Buffalo and the Niagara Region is indelibly tied to the history of material innovation. Buffalo has been at the forefront of material, architectural and technical explorations during the past century. These range from infrastructural experiments in moving goods and people by inventing a method of flow through the Erie Canal to conveyance systems and sea legs; and from slip-forming for the construction of concrete silos to Sullivan’s innovative steel frame construction and terra cotta cladding for the Guaranty Building, which contributed to the development of the high-rise building and the curtain wall.

Material Culture projects forward from this history through research that explores constructive sensibilities and critically investigates how our culture is deeply embedded in material artifacts.The group pursues its design inquiry through full-scale fabrication, assembly and installation; critical exploration of design and production; and study of the potential of materials. In these investigations, the conceptual premises of architecture are consistently tested through making.

Related Courses

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Affiliated Faculty

6/1/16
Miguel Guitart, PhD. is an architect and academic from Madrid, Spain. He teaches as Visiting Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.
6/1/16
The work of Dennis Maher has ranged from a localized form of civic activism and material experimentation to a synthetic proposition for re-imagining the post-industrial environment  through a variety of modes and media.
6/30/17
Assistant Professor Georg Rafailidis investigates new building forms and construction systems in which notions of materiality, time and authorship are stretched to new frontiers.
6/1/16
Christopher Romano is a Research Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York and a researcher within the Material Culture Research Group where he co-directs the Sustainable Futures study abroad program in the cloud forest of Costa Rica.