Matters of Sensation is a group exhibition of projects by fourteen architecture studios in the United States, all from a new generation of practitioners. Whereas architects’ use of computers first affected shape and structure, the participants in this exhibition address the way materials are not just about construction choices but also a means of creating diverse sensations in a space, focusing on the effects produced by the materials’ textures and surfaces. Through playful manipulation of such elements, beauty, ornament, and pattern have thus found their way back into contemporary design.
The best of these explorations avoid a neo-utilitarian tone in favor of aesthetic and psychological investigations. They are voluptuous productions that aspire to elicit a heightened awareness of our material environment. Such efforts became supercharged by the introduction of modeling software into academic studios in the early 1990s, followed soon after by rendering and animation software and then by digital fabrication. In the jump from a digital or virtual architecture to new modes of architectural fabrication usually described as research-oriented, productions must now be evaluated according to their success at evoking in the viewer material sensations and corporeal effects.
Unaligned in their interests and bored by old debates, the group of young architects featured in Matters of Sensation produce work that attempts to answer no questions, solve no problems, and broach no oppositions. It is, rather, about a fascination with architectural forms that induce sensation—about fantasy, intimacy, and sci-fi, and, above all, about experiencing pleasure.