Hybrid Tools for Thought


Research-based learning at the intersection of material experience and digital abstraction

The 3-year project (2020-23) is funded by the Curriculum 4.0 program (digitization of university teaching) of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Stifterverband.

In the context of 'gestaltung', technological systems are developed in synergy with materials and actions that mediate between the haptic and digital world. The potential and effects of digitalisation on the creative, planning approach of architectural topics are taught actively and reflexively. Case studies on ceramics, living colours and body techniques are carried out and innovative, digital processes are initiated in pictorial, drafting and material contexts. In particular be the dynamic knowledge that arises at the interface between material experience and digital abstraction will be reflected upon.

The teaching and learning units of the individual modules aim at open-ended and process-oriented learning outcomes and guide the students to formulate individual exploratory questions and develop their own positions.


Additive structures in ceramics (3D clay printing)

Bild folgt © k:g

In dealing with ceramics as one of the oldest, natural building materials in human history, new processes have to be initiated within the interplay between manual and digital methods. The digital environment enables a precise shaping process that is dematerialized, while algorithmic path definitions are possible in additive manufacturing (AM) in a way that would not be possible to produce with manual tools and processes.

Particularly in the case of ceramics, a material that is demanding in terms of craftsmanship and changes dynamically over time, synergies of established and innovative processes are expected through a specific understanding of the material. Together with the students as Science Assistants, the technical properties and possibilities of extruded, plastic ceramic mass are explored in the AM for their usability for new applications in architecture. Design experiments and form optimisations (Rhino + Grasshopper), as well as the actual production (Delta WASP) are run through in recursive loops. The students develop a prototypical component taking into account efficient and innovative strategies from design to final production.

The aim is to further exploit the potential of parametric programming in its creative scope. Current hardware and new software applications in generative design are primed to meet this objective.



Living Colour

Test tubes with colored contents © Sina Hensel

This module is about the sustainable production of materials and their application, specifically in the field of colour. It focuses on the method of traditional dyeing with living organisms by examining the design potential of algae as a colour agent, which serves as a starting point for reflection upon novel sources for materials production and their implications. Since all materials used are active, the question of their durability remains. The practical application of such dyes requires the acceptance of transformation as well as the relinquishment of control. The research module suggests a design that conceptually integrates the transformation of colour and explores the question of what it means for our understanding of colour and materials when colour changes or even disappears over time.

In the context of the theoretical currents of New Materialism, object-oriented ontology, and posthumanism, students will be introduced to a scientific way of working through research journals that document the transformation of dyes in order to better understand temporal processes and to render this dynamic process visible and comprehensible both digitally and analogously. Colour agents made and/or used: Rubia Tinctorum (madder root), Indigofera Tinctoria (indigo), algae: Chlorella vulgaris, Dunaliella salina, Haematococcus pluvalis, Arthrospira platensis.

The module will be held in collaboration with Anja Neuefeind (Studio for Colour and Space).


Gestures and facial expressions

materialized gesture © Hannah Groninger

In this module, body techniques for socio-technical systems are explored. While recording gestures, glances and facial expressions, emotionality and physical means of expression are investigated specifically for drawing and shaping processes. Technologies such as facial recognition (see deep-face technology), which are normally used to simulate avatars in VR world and game industry, are repurposed to increasingly visualize aspects of communication, empathy and perception. The data generated by the recordings serve as a basis for analogue, automated and additive two- and three-dimensional prints, which in turn are subjected to a scientific as well as aesthetic analysis. Through the active use of essential means of communication gestures and facial expressions, self-confidence and personal development of each individual as an acting being (complete agent) are strengthened.