Materials developed by Columbia GSAPP’s Natural Materials Lab, directed by Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon. COURTESY GSAPP

Andrés Jaque On Mud Architecture

The architect and educator discusses the work of Columbia University’s Natural Materials Lab, directed by assistant professor Lola Ben-Alon.

Materials developed by Columbia GSAPP’s Natural Materials Lab, directed by Assistant Professor Lola Ben-Alon 

Now architecture is the making of muddy togetherness. In the cracks of the carbon-liberation age, life is being redefined as the material circulation of the earth. The Great Depression was followed by the implosion of the city through the mass mobilization of steel, glass, and concrete. Post–World War II manifested as the plastic-made spreading of suburbs. In contrast, nowness is being reconstructed as natural and trans-scalar. 

Earth, vegetal fibers, and bio-additives are the basis of the materials produced by Columbia University GSAPP’s Natural Materials Lab, directed by Lola Ben-Alon. Modeled, conformed, or 3D printed, these materials replace fabrics, leather, and concrete walls to decarbonize cloth, furniture, buildings, and infrastructures. They are produced from what communities can find locally (soil, plants, proteins). Their availability does not depend on and promote neoliberal global trades, but instead helps enact a process of grounded planetary empowerment.

Ultimately, what the lab shows with these materials is that the city alone is no longer the privileged recipient of architecture. Architecture is no longer urban, metropolitan, or suburban. Architecture is the way bodies, buildings, cities, and territories build togetherness in the transition across scales. 

portrait of Andrés Jaque

Andrés Jaque is the founder of the New York– and Madrid-based architecture practice Office for Political Innovation, and dean and professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). His practice explores architecture as an entanglement of bodies, technologies, and environments. As an architect, a researcher, and a curator, Jaque approaches materiality in his work as relational, trans-scalar, and intrinsically political.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]