©MORPHtopia 2024


Material agency in spatial formations

Assuming sustainability as a prerequisite for a future building culture, the research project integrates separate approaches emerging in architectural discourse and related fields into a methodology for understanding the architectural potential of vulcanized fiber and developing a prototypical building system.

Vulcanized fiber is a little known, cellulose-based material, produced in sheets. Besides a good ecological balance, this material is durable, strong, and lightweight, offering significant potential for architectural application. Of special interest is the material’s natural deformation as a result of the drying process. It not only produces a distinct, natural form aesthetics, but also a potentially improved structural performance as well as an ambiguous functionality and spatial quality. In this context it is essential to examine the levels of control between form definition and a self-forming process. The project builds on developments in paper-based construction and aims at investigating the aesthetic, functional, spatial, and constructive potential of plant-based vulcanized fiber, used as building components in architecture. Understanding the distinct characteristics of parts and the emerging implication for potential correlations is the basis for a bottom-up method of designing spatial structures. Hereby, natural-physical phenomena are combined with a hybrid working method of digital and analog techniques – to formulate a contemporary articulation of sustainable architecture.

By following the dynamic properties of the distinct material to conceptualize architectural environments, this research aims at activating a new resource in architecture and expanding the aesthetic, functional and spatial norms of a sustainable building culture beyond utilitarianism.

Universität Innsbruck
Department of Experimental Architecture
Building Design and Construction

2023 - 2027

Karolin Schmidbaur (project lead)
Lukas Allner (researcher)
Gonzalo Vaíllo (researcher)

Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
PEEK program (AR 808-GBL)

Project website︎︎︎