Matter Design is a collaborative studio founded in 2008 by Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee. While both are academics (Clifford teaches at MIT and McGee at the University of Michigan), Clifford has bachelors and masters degrees in architecture while McGee has a bachelors in mechanical engineering and a masters in industrial design. McGee’s proficiency in fabrication is balanced with Clifford’s dedication to design resulting in a holistic approach to innovation. This partnership forced the pair to envision the practice as a marriage between drawing and making.
Matter Design revolts against the idea that the role of the architect should be relegated to producing representations of architectural intent, while the contractor maintains control of the means and methods of making. This is a revolt against the standard practice of the architect, but is also situated in a field of digital design that bounds in the fantasies of renderings and gravity-less designs. Matter Design is truly digital, but they are grounded in the realities of materials, loads, and physicality — topics that don’t immediately exist in the digital.
Clifford and McGee see Matter Design as an interdisciplinary academic research studio dedicated to re-imagining the role of the architect in the digital era. The irony of such a claim is that each project they produce is firmly embedded in a historical reference. They see these as translations of past methods into the digital design. These are not attempts to resurrect the past, but rather, ways of informing and innovating the present with lost practices of the past.