School of Architecture College of Design

Stimulus Package

Workshop Summary

Recent developments in materials science offer tremendous opportunities for invention. This is particularly so with smart materials and nanomaterials that react to changes that they “sense” in their environment. From materials that change color, fluidity, and shape, to substances that generate electricity and emit light, the novel properties of emergent materials offer an increasingly broad array of opportunities to contemporary architects and designers.


We are at the beginning of a new epoch, for which there are few precedents for architects, however it is not unfamiliar territory. The age of electricity, the machine age, the space age, and the information age all produced extraordinary works by artists and designers that lent vision to the problems and promises of new technologies. Encouraged by this tradition of leadership, the intent of this workshop is to conceive of how architecture might be transformed by advanced materials that are just emerging in the field.


We can no longer think of materials as just being static, and as resources that must be cut, shaped, cast, blown, printed, or formed into products and devices. In our age, where the domestication of atoms has led to the design of materials at the molecular scale, researchers are fundamentally altering the properties of matter, and our relationship to it. Now, materials are devices, and react with behaviors that we have bestowed upon them.


Smart materials, for example, will show a significant change in one or more of their properties when they are stimulated. A variety of external stimuli can cause these materials to change color, shape, fluidity, etc.; the stimulus might be thermal, electrical, mechanical, chemical, magnetic, or photonic. The changes in the

properties of smart materials are deeply rooted in the nanoscale – the scale of individual molecules – and are often a direct result of chemical reactions or phase changes.


As architects shift away from the mores of merely reinventing artifacts, and toward a culture of discovery and invention, they will need to think about how advanced materials should be designed to behave in products and environments that heretofore have never been possible. By exploring relationships between smart materials and more conventional material systems, this workshop, Stimulus Package, examines the promises of smart materials and their tremendous implications for the future of architecture.


Students will learn about smart materials through demonstrations, presentations, and hands-on engagement with a selection of smart materials. We will not only explore the remarkable capabilities of these materials, but also their limitations. After an initial experimentation phase is completed, our class will embark on the

creation of performative artifacts that demonstrate how the behavior of these responsive materials might both stimulate and enchant the senses of one that encounters them.


You will be provided with a package that contains a few different classes of smart materials. Working in teams, students will design and make an object of their own invention that exploits the properties of these materials, which are engineered to change shape, change color, and emit light. Your design must consider

how the behavior of these responsive materials might engage the senses, and your solution must necessitate the use of the smart material.



Guest Instructors

Martina Decker and Peter Yeadon, Founding Partners, Decker Yeadon, New York, NY



Martina Decker and Peter Yeadon are known for their pioneering research into applications for advanced materials with novel properties, particularly smart materials and nanomaterials, and have collaborated on a range of projects over the past decade. Decker is an Assistant Professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology, where she teaches courses on smart materials and nanotechnology and directs the Material Dynamics Lab. Yeadon is an Associate Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he has taught courses on emergent materials since 2003.


Faculty Instructor

Blaine Brownell, Associate Professor


School of Architecture
145 Rapson Hall
89 Church Street
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Fax: 612-624-5743


Contact Information

Undergraduate Student Services
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107 Rapson Hall, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
P: 612-624-1717 | E:

General Information
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