Date of Award
Master of Architecture (MArch)
Material Conversations /məˈtirēəl/ /ˌkänvərˈsāSH(ə)ns/ noun 1. derived from an early memory of forming relationships to objects, a way to understand the physical environment through a scaling down process that follows, but is not limited to, space, element, material. 2. the way in which material components are tectonically related 3. a process which would inform one to work with materials in a way which is conceptually informed by both aforementioned definitions 4. an integral aspect of architectural design, Material Conversations enable the architect to establish a language with which to relate to the components of their work, to better speak to those they design for.
I was raised in a religiously adjacent home. Sunday mornings spent in a twill padded pew, the first half hour spent singing. I always mouthed the words, I hated the idea of my voice, out of tune, creating discord amidst the chorus. I was six, or maybe four, probably eight.
The twill of a pew, the wood of a bench, the concrete of a step, the powder-coated steel of a column; all these became moments of familiarity in spite of their setting. Here began an understanding of my relation to space; an imagined conversation between myself and these tactile moments gave meaning to that moment in space. Just as one seeks out familiarity in a crowded room of strangers, I sought out the familiarity of the material qualities of inhuman objects, elements, furniture, etc. These early memories form my architectural intent; to establish conversations between myself and the materials I work with, for the sake of creating a means to converse with others through built environment and informed spatial dialogue.
This intent drove me to architecture, as a means to learn the language I was speaking to those materials, with the hopes that in learning to translate those conversations, I could connect to others as a means to actualize their needs for spatial connection. But, what I have learned is that material conversation is not the substance of a masters degree in architecture, instead there is talk of societal change, political empowerment, projection of identity, institutional reform, and paradoxical theorization (just to name a few). These are conversations I have participated and reveled in. These are conversations which comprised my projects within the institution of architecture that I am writing this in. These are conversations which must be had to produce an architecture that is more than a selfish expression. But to leave out a conversation in the process of design is to ignore a foundation of what informs design as a greater concept.
Here I will explore how a conversation is erased, misunderstood, and retold. Material conversation is a core memory which has taken me four years within an institution of architecture to recall. With this recollection, I seek to express how the absence of this conversation as an integral foundation of a developing architectural practice can produce acts of erasure and misinformed recollections.
This is an archive of subjectified contexts and de-objectified subjects, which informs a culmination of both in a composed representation. By fragmenting and erasing both information that I find superfluous, as well as information I find vital; then ultimately collaging an amalgamation of these artifacts, I seek to demonstrate how the act of erasure is an intuition fostered and encouraged by the institution of architecture. The church, as a metaphor for architecture, is an entity which is rife with both constructive and problematic conversation.
[Working] Artifacts in this archive include: historical preservation designation documents, historic American buildings survey documents and photographs, postcards, false combinations, architectural drawings, photographs of ephemera, redactions, flagrant manipulations, acts of erasure, not-so-clever lies, and other assorted realizations.
Burke, Liam, "Notes on institutional architecture ; towards and understanding of erasure and conversation" (2022). Masters Theses. 860.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.
View exhibition online: Liam Burke, Notes on institutional architecture