Material Realities: A Visual Recap

Material Realities Poster

Earlier this week at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, the Material Realities showcase unfolded as a dynamic convergence of creativity, craftsmanship, and community. 

How can we collectively inspire individuals and communities to rethink our essential relationship to our material world?

This central query framed Material Realities. Through exhibitions, demonstrations, and engaging talks, students and faculty explored materials and making. It wasn’t just about structures; it was about sparking curiosity and challenging conventions to address new possibilities for a material world marked by overproduction, mass consumption, and climate change.

Held in coordination with the School of Architecture's annual Graduate Open House for newly admitted graduate students, Material Realities, served as a bridge. Future graduate students got a first-hand look into how current students at the A-School are thinking critically about material culture and taking a bold approach to shaping the built environment.  

In capturing the inventive pathways our students and faculty tread, Material Realities spotlit how seemingly mundane matter, like paper clips and staples, can be transformed into the extraordinary. Plastic waste found redemption, and discarded building materials whispered second chances. From the raw earthiness of adobe bricks to the precision of robotic manufacturing, every creation offered a glimpse into the range of material explorations happening at Campbell Hall.

In this visual recap of Material Realities, we celebrate again the pulse of matter—from the tangible to the transformative—that inspires creativity each and every day at the School of Architecture.

Student Work, Material Realities
A sampling of exhibited student work (clockwise, from top left): Stationery Ensemble by Bhargavi Murthy (MArch '24), made with staple-pins, rubber bands, wood, and plastic reels collected from the UVA Re-Use Facility and woodshop; Cabinet of Curiosities: Creixement Different by Olivia McGeough (MArch '24), made in ARCH 6710: Design Computation I, taught by Ehsan Baharlou, Dr.-Ing; Fringe: Hairy Tectonics by Leila Ehteshem (MLA '24) and Eli Sobel (MArch '24), made with human hair-reinforced composite material, faculty advisor: Ehsan Baharlou, Dr.-Ing; Thank You, Thank you, Thank You by Samuel Orlando (BS Arch '24), made with crocheted plastic bags, faculty advisor: JT Bachman. 


Aperiodic Table exhibition
The tranSci Lab for Real World Chemistry and Creative Communication presented excerpts from the Aperiodic Table of the Anthropocene, an exhibition currently on view in UVA's Chemistry Building. The Aperiodic Table of the Anthropocene seeks to bring attention to rarely seen material trajectories—from extraction to waste, past to future. Selections shown here include narrative mappings, material samples, and creaturely intersections. Team: Cassandra Fraser, Matthew Seibert, Berenika Boberska, Ash Duhrkoop, Hugo Kamya, Julia MacNelly, Rosana Rubio Hernández, Ishani Saraf, Theodore Teichman, Devin Zuckerman, Hitisha Kalolia, Jetta Lin, Zahid Ahmed Shariff, Agnes To


Making mud blocks
Graduate students Julia MacNelly (MLA '25) and Lysette Velázquez (MLA '25) demonstrated the traditional method of making adobe blocks, a practice deeply rooted in Mexican heritage. 


Scraps and Scrapple gallery talk
The Scraps and Scrapple exhibition In Campbell Hall's East Wing Gallery features an installation by UVA School of Architecture's Before Building Laboratory, led by faculty Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann, and their student research team. The work was originally created in 2023 for the fourth cycle of Exhibit Columbus, the premier American architectural biennial in Columbus, Indiana. During Material Realities, the student team: Shiza Chaudhary (MArch '25), Ammon Embleton (MArch '24), Isaac Goodin (MArch '25), Emily Popplert (MArch '24), and Margaret Saunders (MArch '25), shared their experiences working on the project. 


Wood demonstration
Jeffery Holley (BArH '24, MArH '25) led a hands-on demonstration in the Fabrication Lab exploring the timeless connection between craftsperson and tool, focusing on the traditional wood plane. 


Talk at Eric Goodwin Memorial
Architecture Professor Peter Waldman led an in-situ retelling of how the Eric Goodwin Memorial (2004) on the Campbell Hall North Terrace came to be. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the project that honors former Architecture student Eric Goodwin. Team: Peter Waldman, Sam Beall, Jennifer Findley, and Justin Walton


This event was made possible by the generous support of the School of Architecture Dean's Office. 

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