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. 


  • 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


  • 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.

Affiliated Faculty

Related Courses

The building of cities is—and always has been—an activity with many moving parts. This studio will explore the calibration of those parts. In so doing, we will examine the theme of collective social engagement in the design and construction of shared spaces for the built environment.
In this technical methods seminar, we will conduct research into a wide variety of materials, both known materials and less known materials, used or potentially usable within the realm of architecture and design.
The studio will work in direct collaboration with Maya Dunietz, an Israeli composer, performer, and sound artist on the design and fabrication of an anechoic chamber – an insulated, echo-free, acoustic environment designed to experience total silence.
Encompassing the period from about 1840-1900, Victorian architecture is characterized by a wide range of interpretations and re-combinations of distinctly different historical traditions.  
This Material Culture Intellectual Domain reading seminar investigates distinct theoretical frameworks addressing our relationship to the physical world. The course is structured around ten theoretical lenses. 
The MC GRG Design Studio Manus et Machina – Hand and Machine – explores the potential combination of the direct action of the hand as the primary tool to produce material qualities, and the indirect action of the machine as the ultimate strategy to finalize material production. Working with clay as the primary material, due to its performance multiplicity throughout its various states of solidity and strength, the students will explore design actions that go from the more primal mixing, pressing, ramming, compacting, forming, and firing, to later infer the resulting pieces with water-jet precise extracting or cutting operations. 
Visiting Assistant Professor - Department of Architecture - Hayes Hall 313 - 716-829-5896
Clinical Associate Professor - Department of Architecture - Hayes Hall 315 - 716-829-5913
Clinical Assistant Professor - Department of Architecture - 136 Diefendorf Hall - (716) 829-5927
Associate Professor - Department of Architecture - Hayes Hall 312 - (716) 829-5896
Christopher Romano, assistant professor of architecture, explores the relationship between design, construction and the contemporary culture of building by leveraging regional manufacturing and material processes.