Volumetric Robotics Exhibition Opening

Please join us for the opening of the exhibition titled Volumetric Robotics on March 19 at 6pm at the BSA Space in Boston. For more information on the opening, please visit the BSA Space website.

While some hold on to notions of alien intervention, Brandon Clifford, Belluschi Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and curator of the exhibition Volumetric Robotics, argues that ancient civilizations like the Inca were much more advanced in their knowledge of volumetric construction than we are today. It is a rare occasion when we construct with massive blocks of stone these days.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the design industry has favored economically friendly, often thin veneers for the cladding of structural volumes. Such an assumption about efficiency neglects the potential of various ancient and lost methods to produce superior external skins. This is why we are in awe of the Inca: We simply can’t explain how their work was possible.

The show includes a “cabinet of curiosities” containing artifacts and tools, footage of a robotic arm carving volumetrically, and prototypes of walls and columns fabricated by the same robot. Also included is new research from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning that explores ways to recapture methods of carving stone in the digital era.

Range now On Sale

Range is now on Sale! Visit our online store here to get your copy of Range today for only $19.95.

Range compiles the work of Matter Design by project from the years 2008-2013 in reverse chronological order. Each project contains a descriptive text, but some also compile previously published articles and are noted as such. The structure of this catalog is simple—reference image on the left with a project image on the right. This simple structure has allowed the possibility of focusing in on details, or illustrating multiple references. While each spread is simplistic and often didactic, the confluence of references for each project speak to the range, breadth, and complexity of the work.

Architectural League Prize: Range Exhibition

Matter Design to lecture tonight at the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers: Range opening at Parsons starting at 7pm. Come join us for the exhibition to follow.

This exhibition also coincides with the launch of our online store where you will be able to purchase our products, as well as our new limited edition book titled "Range"

Click here for more information.

Introducing Range

We are pleased to introduce our new book--Range. Click here to order your own copy.

Range compiles the work of Matter Design by project from the years 2008-2013 in reverse chronological order. Each project contains a descriptive text, but some also compile previously published articles and are noted as such. The structure of this catalog is simple—reference image on the left with a project image on the right. This simple structure has allowed the possibility of focusing in on details, or illustrating multiple references. While each spread is simplistic and often didactic, the confluence of references for each project speak to the range, breadth, and complexity of the work.
This catalog is produced for the 2013 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers exhibition and funded with generous support by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture + Planning and the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning.
Published Date: June 25, 2012
Dimensions: 6"x6" | 256 pgs | B&W | Softcover

Cumulus - Soft Launch

Matter Design is excited to announce the soft launch of our first line of jewelry titled Cumulus.

We have been working on this extensive line of rings, cufflinks, and other items for about a year and are happy to release this passion of ours to the public. This soft launch contains many of the current ring and cufflink designs. While we have received incredible responses from our physical prototypes, we would love to hear what you think. For the limited time of this soft launch, we are offering all of the current designs directly from our manufacturer (they will make the products to order and ship directly to you) allowing us a better understanding of which designs are most prone to stock ourselves, as well as promote to retail locations. We thank you for your help and for this reason we have aggressively priced these items to reward early adopters. We are very proud of these designs and we hope you enjoy them as well.

To see the full array of designs and pur­chase your own Cumu­lus, please visit our online shop. If you are interested to carry Cumu­lus in your retail loca­tion, please email brandon[at]matterdesignstudio[dot]com

Cumu­lus is a fam­ily of designed objects rem­i­nis­cent of cloud formations—not only for its rhetor­i­cal appear­ance, but for it’s capac­ity to morph, adapt, and change. Clouds are often per­ceived to carry sig­nif­i­cance beyond their phys­i­cal states. While some indi­vid­ual items in the Cumu­lus fam­ily appear famil­iar as a known type—for instance the pearl—the same sys­tem trans­forms, mutates, mul­ti­plies, and evolves into a fam­ily of solu­tions, each pro­duc­ing their own iden­tity within the large fam­ily of cloud formations.

Introducing Helix

We are pleased to introduce Helix, a half-scale non-reinforced precast concrete spiral stair. Helix will be on exhibit at the BSA Space until May 15, 2013. The gallery is open Mondays through Fridays from 10:00AM to 6:00PM and until 5:00PM on weekends and holidays. The Gallery is located at 290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston, MA 02210.

A special thanks to Matthew Johnson and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger for their facilities, support, and expertise. Another special thanks to Boston Sand & GravelLehigh Northeast Cement Company, and Headwaters Resources, Inc. for their material donations that made this project possible.

Volume Price Reduction

Our publisher has informed us that that Vol­ume: Bring­ing Sur­face into Ques­tion has received a price reduction and will now be on sale for $64.53. To purchase your own copy, please visit our online book­store. We hope you enjoy it.

In addition, we are offering a discount until March 31st of $10 off Volume! Just use the code SHARE10 upon checkout.

Design Biennial Boston

We are pleased to announce that Matter Design will be exhibiting at this years Design Biennial Boston. We have been busy casting a half-scale spiral staircase we call 'Helix' that will skewer the existing entry stair at the BSA. This project is a continuation of our dedication to volume with a series of scale prototypes and applied research translating past methods of making into contemporary culture. We hope to see you there and please spread the word! Please join us for the opening of the third Design Biennial Boston. Thursday, 21 February 2013, from 6 to 8 p.m. at BSA Space, 290 Congress Street, Boston. For directions, please click here.

The Boston Society of Architects and pinkcomma gallery recognize emerging practices and designers in the Biennial exhibition. The program showcases significant design talent among Greater Boston’s early-career, independent practitioners through a juried exhibition, publication, and four site-specific installations at BSA Space. This year's participants are Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee of Matter Design, Wilson Martin and Eden Dutcher of GroundView, Ana Miljački and Lee Moreau of Project_, and Kiel Moe.

The exhibition will include an archive of works by the 2008 participants (Ground, Höweler + Yoon Architecture, LinOldhamOffice, Merge Architects, MOS, over,under, SsD, Studio Luz Architects, UNI and Utile) and the 2010 winners (C&MP, Dan Hisel Architect, Schneider Studio, Touloukian Touloukian and William O’Brien, Jr.)

Volume is now available

We are pleased to announce that Volume: Bringing Surface into Question is complete and currently available for purchase from the online bookstore. For those of you that have been patiently waiting, this is the publication produced via the SOM fellowship. Click on the image to purchase your very own copy! This book is 336 pages of observations, explanations, imagery, and insights on the topic of volume in architecture. We hope you enjoy and can support the project. This is the first in a line of research to come. Stay tuned for updates on exhibitions, lectures, prototypes, and further publications.

Marc Jarzombek recently suggested one could determine how well a society is doing by their ability to precisely carve stone. I like his metric for its simplicity, but also for its assumption that we must not be doing so well today. So much of the discussion surrounding digital design has focused on the surface. Perhaps this is because we inherited economically thin sheet materials from the industrial era, or because we no longer consider compression-only structures to be valid. While I argue these structures outlast any partial-tension structure, making them inherently sustainable, I also argue the purpose of the proposed research is not to revert to this ‘antiquated’ architecture. This research is intended to mine the lost knowledge of stereotomy (the art of cutting solids, more typically stone) as a way to inform our contemporary methods of making with the dimension of volume.

This report was funded through the Skidmore, Owings & Merril Foundations 2011 SOM Prize, a Fellowship awarded for independent Travel / Research in Architecture, Design or Urban Design.

Brandon Clifford Appointed to Belluschi Lectureship

Brandon Clifford has been appointed first holder of the Belluschi Lectureship in MIT's, School of Architecture and Planning, Department of Architecture, a new three-year teaching and research post named for Pietro Belluschi, Dean of the School from 1951 to 1965, in recognition of his generous guidance of young practitioners and scholars.


GlassCast is an ongoing research project into glass forming using reconfigurable molds

Glass is a ubiquitous part of the built environment today, but rarely is it seen in applications involving curvature. This is both a result of the complexities of working with such a sensitive material, and the high cost of tooling and the forming processes required to control its shape.  Contemporary design is moving towards a more performance based computational model, connecting generative algorithms with secondary and tertiary inputs such as environmental and structural performance as well as fabrication and material constraints. This project seeks to tie these complex influences into one cohesive process, from design to fabrication.

Central to the development of the process was the design and fabrication of a servo controlled reconfigurable glass slumping kiln. Based on the classic "pin mold" typology, the kiln allows the rapid reshaping of the mold surface, to allow the production o0f continuously variable components from a single tool. Coupled with the development of custom jig systems for robotic abrasive waterjet cutting, the system can produce uniquely trimmed, double curved components in standard float glass. Parallel to this trajectory has been the development of custom grasshopper components to aprovide the designer with instant feedback on the limitation of curvature and scale which the kiln can produce. The components then produce the output to the kiln for the positioning setup, which is driven through a custom motion controller.

The initial work culminated in a installation which ran from January to April at Liberty Lofts Annex, in Ann Arbor, MI.

Project Credits:

Lead: Wes McGee of Matter Design Studio and Catie Newell of Alibi Studio

with Aaron Willette, Lucy Olechowski, Brandon Clifford

Fabrication Team:

Grant Weaver, Simon Rolka, Patrick Ethen, Maciej Kaczynski, Etienne Turpin, Andrew Stern, Brian Muscat, Chuck Newell


Steve Karnowski

This work has been funded by:

Research Through Making Grant | Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning


Office of the Vice President of Research | University of Michigan

Introducing Pongo

We feel strongly that great designs appear to be effortless.  Objects of desire that function, while maintaining a state of comfort.  Our design methodology translates proven and established classics into contemporary methods of making.  This translation serves to invert a new identity for a familiar strategy.

For this project, we tackled the twisted-stick coat rack as a typology.  Our first inclination was to melt and weld these sticks together.  Though impractical, it would have been possible to purchase a tree and carve this object out as a solid.  Instead we looked to 5-axis milling as an operation to ensure three individual sticks could be carved efficiently, shipped efficiently, and still align precisely with mechanical fasteners.  Clever spiraling fastener placement allows the single component to attach to itself, instead of requiring variation between the sticks.  In doing so, we were faced with the challenge of producing the moment in the design we are most fond of - the belly buttons.  These internalized nubs rhetorically call for the bolts.  The three sticks wrap around each other in such a way that the bolts align with the neighboring parts, making the assembly a simple task that requires no instruction manual.

We hope you can help Pongo find a great home.

Organically Emerging Hardware

Here is an example of the 5-axis milling used to extract the organically modeled door hardware produced at the past Oganic Fab­ri­ca­tions Work­shop at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan Taub­man Col­lege. More examples to come soon.

Organic Fabrications Workshop 2

Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee are to instruct the Oganic Fabrications Workshop at the University of Michigan Taubman College on Saturday and Sunday January 28-29, 2012.

This second installment in the workshop will build on work done in the first workshop, though participation in the first is not a per-requisite for attending.  The Organic Fabrications workshop is dedicated to advancing complex modeling and making of organic geometries.  We will understand the principles of surface curvature, as well as promote the control of these principles to resolve our geometries with constraints.  The workshop will then translate these principles into fabrication methods.  T-Splines for Rhino will serve as the platform for these operations.

If you are a member of the TCAUP community and would like to attend, please sign up here.  Space is limited.

Coat Rack Sneak Preview

We are pleased to introduce Coat Rack - our next furniture item.  It is currently in the prototyping phase and we look forward to sharing more documentation soon.