Material World

Every decision planners take in the design process of a project has an impact when implemented, not only on the site of construction, but also on the site of extraction and of production. From the window frames of a house to the asphalt of our streets, and from the steel bolts of a door to the trees species of a park, these choices deployed in the materiality of our cities have a global knock-on effect. Every element of the built environment is the product of extractive processes. Far from being abstract and removed objects, construction commodities are embedded within economic and ideological systems of extracted energy, materials, and labor. At a staggering scale, capital accumulation and the corresponding brutal and exploitative processes at work in the transfer of raw materials to the built environment have long been perceived as detached from the discipline, the education, and the practice of design and architecture. Yet, visible in the architecture and infrastructure of our cities and settlements, the ramifications of contemporary mining and exploitation are violent, immense, and disastrous, impacting humans and non-humans alike, with racialized populations most affected but also severe adverse effects on soil, topography, labor, transportation, water and food systems—with deep territorial political entanglements.

“Material World” is a project that seeks to engage in understanding the ways that design disciplines intersect with territories of extractivism and resource exploitation, and how seemingly irrelevant composition details fit in the global enterprise of “extractive neoliberalism” that fuels injustice, social struggles, and climate change (Ferguson, 2007).

The project aims to develop critical thinking towards the built and urban environment and its materiality, to conduct research on global construction chains of construction materials remotely and  to communicate these findings via an accessible media.

Researcher: Charlotte Malterre-Barthes