Material Library


Architecture is a time based art form. It only gets revealed as we progress through it, the quality of a space becomes apparent through the materials it is made of, as we perceive the changing light, sound, touch and smell. There is no architecture nor scenography without people to experience it.

The experience of space with all our senses is intrinsic to both architecture and scenography.

This risks more and more to fall into oblivion, given the current development of the two fields. The ever increasing perception and exposition of architecture solely through two dimensional media has a direct impact on the very work of architects and scenographers.

The education at NTA refocuses two fundamental aspects of architecture and scenography: the sensory-based cognition evolving throughout time. The momentum of the theatrical evokes the scenographic within architecture; scenography is agency within architecture.

Knowledge of materials is key to education and research within scenography and architecture. This regards both intellectual and somatic knowledge, the very connection between the two is what the scenographer must be trained to master. A collection of samples of all imaginable materials must be at the basis of any education. The pedagogical aim first of all is to create an awareness around materiality beyond marketed products. The freedom to explore such an archive allows students to find or create the very distinct material that applies to a specific demand in the professional world.

A material library facilitates the knowledge about materials in a critical way among students and professionals, and enables one to accrue relevant competence permeating into and inspiring research. Commercially available products are becoming essential in a second a phase when the scenographer and architect designs and develops ideas, realizes work and drives artistic research founded on practice. The critically reflecting artist or architect must precisely differentiate between the substances of a material, the treatment or processing of a material and its availability on the market; unfolding its ethical and technical conditions that constantly must be questioned when working progressively.

To emphasize this critical procedure, the collection of material samples refers to the sociocultural, the political, the scientific and the economic environment of any material. Each material sample has a standardized size to propose unbiased appreciation, and is accompanied by information about its physical characteristics, possible use, history and ethical context. The essence of a material sample collection or material library as described above lies in the physical presence of any sample (denying full access to remote users). On the other hand our material library will act as a dictionary of materials by being established in the form of a twofold database identifying every material. Twofold in the sense that we firstly indicate physical and hence consistent characteristics, like the chemical composition, behavior in changing humidity and temperature, flexibility, elasticity, etc. which we will base on according existing databases. Secondly each material will be accompanied by economic, political and cultural context. This means, what relates to the production or treatment of any material in terms of its carbon footprint, its impact on social structures, its relation to political circumstances will be collected and continuously updated within the library. Finally we will create a steadily enhancing dictionary as a curated open-source online database with an expert, (later an expert commission) coordinating and verifying the global contribution of information. Any registered user worldwide will have the possibility to access and add to the ever changing database, allowing herself and himself to gain a holistic understanding of any material and the consequences of its use.

Material Library is a on-going project of the Norwegian Theatre Academy.