Mind & Matter


Material Xperience

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The Material Xperience exhibition in Rotterdam, January 25-27, 2012. Photo by the author.

Netherlands-based material company Materia hosted their annual Material Xperience exposition in Rotterdam on January 25-27. The event—one of the largest exhibitions in the world focused exclusively on innovative materials for building—featured over 100 tables, booths, and displays of provocative new products and applications, organized according to fundamental categories such as ceramics, metals, and plastics.

In addition to the content, what is particularly fascinating about Material Xperience is the way in which Materia founder and creative director Els Zijlstra has developed a successful business strategy for the event. Unlike conventional building product trade shows, everything in Material Xperience is curated for content, and only the most interesting and creative new materials are included. Moreover, many of these materials are created by small companies without large marketing budgets. Therefore, in order to create an economically sustainable enterprise, Zijlstra relies on sponsorship from several of the successful, large-scale manufacturers whose products meet Materia's strict specifications. In this way, Material Xperience is able to make innovative materials accessible to a large and diverse audience while ensuring high quality content.

My favorite component of the exposition was an exhibition entitled "Craftsmanship." Located near the center of the event space, this exhibit featured a rich array of intriguing material applications developed largely by individual designers and small ateliers in the Netherlands. Many of these works defied easy categorization and featured unusual processes for their manufacture. Notable examples include soft textiles made out of wood by Lenneke Langenhuijsen, who studied mulberry tree bark beating in Tonga; a project called Pinhole Windowview by Monique Habraken exhibiting light-sensitive emulsion painted on furniture and textiles; lightweight Integral Foamed Concrete with a seamless, durable exterior by Jacob Alkema; backlit ceramic tiles made from textile molds by Barbara Vos; and felt fabrics made by Dutch artist Claudy Jongstra, who tends her own flock of rare Drenthe Heath sheep and maintains a garden of unusual dye plants for her textiles.

Materia will hold its next exhibit in Shanghai this March, on the former site of the 2010 World Expo in Pudong.



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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.