Reciprocal Relationships of Materiality and Human Engagement

Expanding the Role of Material Systems towards Sensorial Socio-Spatial Agency

Authored by: Sean Ahlquist

The Routledge Companion to Paradigms of Performativity in Design and Architecture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367076191
eBook ISBN: 9780429021640
Adobe ISBN:


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The discourse surrounding advanced material research in the field of architecture has, traditionally, sought novel design opportunities through aligning automated bespoke manufacturing, material performance and environmental responsiveness. Where material characteristics, crafted through automated production their subsequent behavior define the performative architectural system, then it is typically called a material system. Discussing architecture’s ramifications on health and social function prompts scrutiny of the material system’s often self-referential dialogue – of intra-systemic relationships of material hierarchies and atmospheric forces. Exploring an eco-social performativity requires the material system’s embrace of the extra-systemic – namely, human agency deemed inextricable from the actions shaping perception of the material system. Accordingly, the performative condition is no longer a priori but situational – a temporal state only proffered by the inquisitor-actor. The material system dramatically shifts to that of agent with unknown capacity. Only through reciprocal perturbations between extra- and material-systemic agents do ill-defined performative natures become elaborated.

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