Opening of the XJTLU Materials Library

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The XJTLU Materials Library is now open at the Ground Floor of the Design Building, on the South Campus of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

The library is a collaborative project between the departments of Industrial Design and Architecture and is based on an initial concept by Professor Pierre-Alain Croset, Dr Ruggero Canova and Dr Christian Gänshirt.

The mission of the Materials Library is to create a direct connection between materiality of the built environment and design procedures adopted in higher education.

“In a cultural environment with a predominance of ‘digitally native’ students, the accessibility to different constructions and design materials aims to strengthen the relations between design concept and physical implementation, where technical properties can also be read and understood as the expression of functions and emotions,” said Dr Ruggero Canova, Head of the Materials Library.

Explaining the aim of the library even further, Dr Canova said: “Equally important, the Materials Library can act as a networking platform for materials producers, manufacturing companies, design and architecture firms, as well as academic research, teaching and learning.”

“With a 300 square-meter space in the heart of the Design Building, and surrounded by the workshops and advanced manufacturing labs, the Materials Library supports a strategy where research by doing and learning by doing in Design and Architecture are strictly combined,” said Professor Pierre-Alain Croset.

The scientific project of the Library was developed by Ruggero Canova and Christian Gänshirt following a five-year-long international conversation with Materials Libraries located in different parts of the world including: Materió, Rematerialise at Kingston University, Central Saint Martin Materials Library, Institute of Making at UCL, MatTo at Politecnico di Torino, Neuni Materio. As a part of this cross-fertilization process, a permanent partnership and research program has been established with Materioteca Milano and its founder Diana Castiglione, who is a member of the scientific committee of XJTLU Materials Library.

The Architecture Collection started in autumn 2014, when Christian Gänshirt, together with his students started to bring samples of building materials to the design studio, in order to discuss their aesthetic qualities and physical characteristics. This collection kept growing further with the support of Li-An Tsien, whose students contributed numerous samples acquired from the local building industry, and also collected scientific data describing each sample.

The library was designed by Pierre-Alain Croset, developing a poetic opposition and dialogue with a façade of architectural polycarbonate, Corten steel, and bamboo; the interiors have been developed by the Shanghai-based design studio BenWu and coordinated by Hongchao Wang.

The working environment of the Materials Library is articulated in two separate working spaces, one for Industrial Design and one for Architecture, plus an exhibition space and an archive. The exhibition of the permanent collection has been curated by Ruggero Canova and Christian Gänshirt, with advice from Caterina Tiazzoldi.

A system of shelves surrounding the entire space permits continuous accessibility of the samples, where visual presence is maximized by the dark aluminum backgrounds and LED hidden lights of the shelves themselves. The samples can be freely manipulated by visitors to experience their weight, texture, flexibility, and other sensory properties. Furthermore, each sample is labelled with a QR code enabling the digital retrieval of several layers of information about its material, e.g. the technical specification, some common applications, and the contacts of the producer.

At the opening of the Materials Library, an installation of the architect and artist Caterina Tiazzoldi was exhibited. “This artwork explores the spatial performance of a flexible and deformable material, such as medical-grade PVC rubber, as a space articulator to transform the user behaviors in the space”, said Dr Tiazzoldi.

(View of the Industrial Design Collection, with the rubber Installation by Arch Caterina Tiazzoldi)

“We are thankful for the efforts of Andy Harvilla, Yunpeng Xiang, Wenwen Li, Chen Lin, Yaqin Zuo and many other student volunteers. They’ve done a great job in assisting the development of the Materials Library,” added Dr Canova.

Story provided by the departments of Industrial Design and Architecture, edited by Jacqueline Bánki

Photos provided by Caterina Tiazzoldi, Ruggero Canova, Milan Ognjanovic

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