Mind & Matter


3XN’s Material Behavior

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Louisiana Pavilion by 3XN, featuring their environmental biocomposite.


I recently gave a lecture at the Danish Architecture Center (DAC) on the occasion of the release of Copenhagen-based 3XN’s new book titled Mind Your Behaviour. Titled “Material Behavior,” my talk addressed the behavior of new materials as well as cultural attitudes toward such materials. An impressive exhibition by the same title is currently on display at the DAC, featuring the breadth and sophistication of 3XN’s work.

Of special interest is 3XN’s material research component, which provides critical assistance for developing projects and has formulated its own grant-supported research agenda. Led by Kasper Guldager Jørgensen, 3XN’s New Materials and Technologies Lab is pioneering innovative materials for design and construction, such as a new biocomposite made from cork, soybeans, linseed, and corn. A complete biological nutrient, this material was featured in 3XN’s Louisiana Pavilion, which won the JEC 2010 innovation award for “environment and recycling.”

3XN’s biocomposite exhibits an intriguing marriage of simple, environmentally friendly materials and high-tech thinking. A phase changing wax, for example, allows the pavilion to maintain a constant temperature. According to 3XN, “The construction absorbs the heat of the sun with the wax melting at 23 degrees and it solidifies and releases the heat when the temperature falls again. This means that the material keeps a consistent temperature, staying cool on a hot day and warm on a cold day.” Based on this model, future cladding systems might adopt some of the functionality of building insulation, thus increasing energy savings.




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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.