Our work investigates how material and industrial cultures shape the world and challenges the regulations, supply chains and processes that to a large extent prescribe how the buildings we inhabit are made, function and feel. We think this can change and needs to change at speed. Modern methods of construction have the capacity to transform the way in which things are built and offer the space to generate new forms of culture in the construction industry.
Through our work we have demonstrated that low carbon local materials can be more affordable and durable than globally-sourced, petrochemical-derivative materials, and are capable of comfortably meeting and outperforming industry standards.
The material resources on which our futures are dependent - softwood timber, stone, clay, lime, plant fibres and shiv - can be grown and sourced across the UK and their production is low intensity. As reducing embodied carbon in the construction industry becomes necessary, and as oil prices rise and we look towards a post brexit economy the UK will need to rebuild its manufacturing economy and crucially make commitments to a low carbon approach.
In the UK current architectural languages predominantly belong to a lineage that is born from cis white male cultures. The fact that it is so hard for us to think and design beyond these languages is in part due to the fact that they are now embedded in the vocabulary of components, products, and regulations that frame architectural possibility. Our work explores the potential for a new architectural language to emerge through and from direct contact with materials and the processes of making and a creative interpretation of the regulations.
Construction and maintenance presently accounts for over 40% of total UK carbon emissions. 11% of the industry’s carbon emissions are derived from the manufacture of materials. Current housing models depend on large amounts of high-energy materials, mass-manufactured overseas, with short lifespans.
If we are to halt the progress of ecological breakdown we need to radically rethink the logic of current construction methods, the materials we use and our approach to growth. In doing so it is likely that we will need to both recover some of our forgotten technologies and develop entirely new forms of architectural language.
In this context we have established Material Cultures – an organisation which brings together design, research and action towards a post carbon built environment. Inherently integrative, the design-led research project intersects material science, engineering, systems thinking, digital technologies and architectural design with a direct, active and practical approach. We aim to co-opt the factory as a place of creativity rather than mass homogeneity.
We are interested in developing qualitative prototypical buildings, which are sustainable, economically viable, and positively impact their inhabitant’s lives through considered design and accessible adaptability. We develop building typologies which touch lightly on the ground. In a climate in which warranties dictate design, and the nature of construction contracts limit quality, Material Cultures seeks to redistribute the priorities of the construction process in favour of design and sustainability.
Summer Islam AADipl (hons) ARB is a founding Director of Material Cultures. Her work is focussed on the holistic integration of construction technologies and design. Summer co-runs 'Construction in Detail' in the Spatial Studies department at the University of the Arts London. Summer has taught at the Bartlett, University College London, the London Metropolitan University, the Architectural Association and the University of Cambridge. She was previously an associate at award-winning design practice 6a architects in London. Summer co-founded architecture and design practice Studio Abroad with George Massoud in 2014.
Paloma Gormley MA (Cantab) is a founding Director of Material Cultures. She is an internationally acclaimed designer responsible for a series celebrated architectural and urban projects. Her work is rooted in a creative pragmatism whilst drawing on new technologies and the integration of new materials. Paloma co-runs 'Construction in Detail' in the Spatial Studies department at the University of the Arts London and has previously taught at the Bartlett, University College London and the London Metropolitan University. She founded Practice Architecture with Lettice Drake in 2009, through which she has completed a number of critically acclaimed arts and cultural projects, including the theatre at the Yard, a performance space for Bold Tendencies. and The Peckham Hotel.
George Massoud AA Dipl ARB RIBA is a Director at Material Cultures. He is an architect, educator, activist and cultural worker. In practice, George has extensive experience working on a range of arts projects, complex refurbishments and commercial developments. He is a founding director of Studio Abroad, which he established with Summer Islam in 2014. George is Unit Master at the Architectural Association, exploring how alternative social ecologies are shaped through material and spatial politics. He is also producer and founding member of POA, a feminist, queer community platform for reimagining value systems through mutual interdependence.
The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
Central Saint Martins, UAL
The Design Museum
London Metropolitan University
Newham London Borough Council
Alessandra de Mitri
Ker Jia Goh
Marwa El Mubark
Unit 15, Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, London E8 4QN