SPECIOUS MATERIALS 


Students
Zhifei Xu
Jie Wu

Advisor 
Brandon Clifford

Readers
Axel Kilian
Timothy Hyde

Our world is saturated by digital media that’s manipulated, spread as facts, sorted algorithmically, creating many different “facts” for each niche community, and increasingly blending the “faked” into our physical reality. As a result, the modernist sense of truth is on the verge of collapse.

As solid and real as architecture might have always been conceived, the field of architecture is not immune to the question of reality. The faking of one architecture material with the image and texture of another has long existed in our field for various purposes, but uncritically thought about and indifferently perceived. Today, digital media adds another dimension on top of the simple binary of real and fake, making the authenticity of the building increasingly confusing.

This thesis proposes to see fake materials, not as an ethical problem (the betrayal of the classical modernism paradigm of “truth to the materials”) or ready-made industrial products made for their economic or performance benefits, but instead, as contemporary mediums that blend digital media into physical reality, and new design areas for architects to intervene with agencies. Then what we like to explore becomes: what would we make of a material that embodied multiple different materialities? Can fake material stand its own ground against its “real” counterparts? Freed from the real vs. fake dichotomy, can these specious materials bring forth a new aesthetic and convey critical meaning?