School of Architecture College of Design

Blaine E. Brownell, AIA LEED AP, Associate Professor

Blaine E. Brownell, AIA LEED AP

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies


Telephone: 612-626-1040

Office: 145 D Rapson Hall



Blaine Brownell is an architect and former Fulbright scholar with a focus on emergent materials and applications. He is an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture and principal of the design and research practice Transstudio. Brownell authored the Transmaterial series as well as the books Matter in the Floating World and Material Strategies with Princeton Architectural Press, and writes the Mind & Matter column for Architect magazine. Considered a leading scholar on advanced materials for architecture and design, Brownell has been published in over forty design, business, and science journals including The New York Times, The London Times, The Wall Street Journal, New Scientist, and Discover, and he has lectured widely in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Blaine’s latest book with co-author Marc Swackhamer is entitled Hypernatural: Architecture’s New Relationship with Nature.


Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Bachelor of Arts in Architecture + Certificate in East Asian Studies, 1992

Rice University, Houston, Texas

Master of Architecture, 1998



  • ARCH 3511 - Fall 2017 - Material Transformations: Technology and Change in the Built Environment
  • ARCH 5110 - Spring 2016 - Architecture as Catalyst: Form is a Verb
  • ARCH 4150/5250, LA 8207 - Spring 2016, May Term in Japan - Imagining Totalscape
  • ARCH 5250 - Spring 2015, May Term in China - China Lab: Emergent Material Territories
  • ARCH 5250 - Spring 2016 - Topics in Design: Hypernatural Studio
  • ARCH 8255 - Fall 2015 - Graduate Architectural Design III: Heavy Air Studio
  • ARCH 8565 - Spring 2014 - Material Performance in Sustainable Building


Research Expertise

My research considers emergent materials and applications with three particular areas of focus: technology, sustainability, and East Asia, with an emphasis on Japanese architecture and design. My work is informed by a wide range of sources, given the fact that new materials arise within the full spectrum of material categories and are often initially associated with fields outside of building construction. Context is essential in assessing the importance of material trajectories and their potential effects, tracing the lineage of material technologies, and understanding the sociocultural and environmental motives that drive the realization of innovative material applications. My long-term objective is to develop a critical framework for assessing the technological development and environmental influence of materials in architecture, in order to reveal consequential trajectories as well as recognize and exploit future opportunities for design innovation.



  • Brownell, Blaine and Marc Swackhamer. Hypernatural: Architecture's New Relationship with Nature. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015. (Editorial review, international distribution.)
  • Brownell, Blaine. Material Strategies: Innovative Applications in Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012. (Editorial review, international distribution.)
  • Brownell, Blaine. Matter in the Floating World: Conversations with Leading Japanese Architects and Designers. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011. (Editorial review, international distribution.)
  • Brownell, Blaine. Transmaterial 3: A Catalog of Materials That Redifine Our Physical Environment. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. (Editorial review, international distribution.)
  • Brownell, Blaine. Transmaterial 2: A Catalog of Materials That Redifine Our Physical Environment. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. (Editorial review, international distribution.)
  • Brownell, Blaine. Transmaterial: A Catalog of Materials That Redifine Our Physical Environment. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. (Editorial review, international distribution.)


Honors & Awards

  • NCARB Award honorable Mention, 2012 National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, Washington, DC. (Proposal for master of Science in Architecture-Research Practices Program, with Renee Cheng, Laura Lee, and Jim Lutz.)
  • International Book Award Nomination, 2007 Royal Institute of British Architects, London, UK. (Transmaterial: A Catalog of Materials That Redifine Our Physical Environment, Princeton Architectural Press.)
  • Visiting Fellow, 2007-2008 Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Awarded position to teach sustainable design in the undergraduate and graduate programs.)
  • Fulbright Fellowship, 2006-2007 Tokyo University of Science, Noda, Japan. (Travel award to develop a book on innovative material approaches of contemporary Japanese architects and designers.)
  • 40 Under 40 Award, 2006 Building Design & Construction Magazine


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

Fax: 612-624-5743


Contact Information

Undergraduate Student Services
12 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
107 Rapson Hall, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
P: 612-624-1717 | E:

General Information
P: 612-626-9068 | E:

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