Material Variance

The Material Variance Symposium is organized by Lola Ben-Alon, Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP, with the Natural Materials LabRonald Rael (UC Berkeley) will deliver a keynote lecture for the event titled “Salt y Glue and Mud y Robots.”

This conference is free and open to the public.


Natural materials are highly variable. How does this inherent variability influence the magic of alchemical reactions, the properties of binding agents and mix designs, supply chains, labor practices, trade routes, and the preconceptions of standards and codes? What are the transformative, political (and often, messy) processes evoked by using materials that are non-engineered and raw?

The Material Variance symposium connects material design researchers, building scientists, and artists to discuss the reciprocal impacts of species and form, and the defiance against refinement, exploitation, and technocratic establishments.


Welcome by Lola Ben-Alon
113 Avery Hall (Wood Auditorium)

SESSION I — Matter and Alchemistry: earth, fibers, plants, living tissues
10:00 am
Wood Auditorium, 113 Avery Hall

  • Living Matter, David Benjamin, Columbia GSAPP (moderator)
  • Breathing Space: On Biomass and Air, Mae-ling Lokko, Yale University
  • Earthen Tectonics, Adam Marcus, Tulane University
  • Adaptive Wildwood, Leslie Lok, Cornell University

MATERIAL KITCHENS — kitchen, materials, lunch, screening, performance
12:30 pm
Avery Hall 400 level

  • Liquid Eel, Sasha Fishman
  • 3D Printed Earth-Fiber, Olga Beatrice Carcasse, Columbia GSAPP
  • Healthy Materials: Samples from Donghia Library,Jonsara Ruth, Parsons
  • Textural Threshold: Dreadlock, Felecia Davis, Penn State
  • Raw Metrics: Sound Installation, Ethan Bourdeau, Columbia GSAPP
  • ReadyMix at DIA, Lucy Raven, Cooper Union

SESSION II — Processes and Impermanence: robots, open source, printing, stacking
3:00 pm
114 Avery Hall

  • Dust and Stain, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Columbia GSAPP (moderator)
  • Molds as Magic, Sarah Graff, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Reconstructing Variability, Mitch McEwen, Princeton University
  • Biological Transient Materials, Ruth Morrow, Newcastle University

KEYNOTE LECTURE titled “Salt y Glue and Mud y Robots” by Ronald Rael (UC Berkeley) with a response from Lola Ben-Alon
6:00 pm
114 Avery Hall


Sep 19 2023


9:30 am - 7:00 pm

Formats (virtual, in person, hybrid)



Columbia University - Avery Hall
1172 Amsterdam Ave #3


Columbia University GSAPP (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation)
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