Course syllabus


ARK338 ARK338 Material and detail 1 lp1 HT22 (22.5 hp)

Course is offered by the department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

Contact details

Course purpose

The Material and Detail studio considers architecture in a world that is increasingly conditioned by material networks. Architects are no longer restricted to a palette of building materials defined by disciplinary tradition, craft or tool sets. Our basic set of representation techniques have been complemented with a host of new design mediums that straddle the abstract space of the digital representation and the concrete, material world. The studio creatively explores the design and research opportunities as well as the constraints of this emergent condition.

The studio investigates how matter and geometry, fuelled by emerging instruments of design, representation and production, can inform architectural design. The aim is to help demystify the transformative capacity of architecture in the actualization of a “live” full or large scale project with a distinct sense of quality and aesthetic. Projects are designed and realized at Chalmers as well as through partnerships with external material suppliers and manufacturers. Moving outside of a controlled academic environment, the studio combines speculative design research with material, technical and curatorial expertise. The work in the studio goes from individual learning of skills to design work in smaller teams to the final realization and curation of an exhibition as a studio.

The course investigates the interaction between material and detail in a project that is designed and developed on a digital platform and is partially constructed in large or full scale. It targets the implementation of a full project cycle, from concept, design and analysis to CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) manufacturing and assembly. The course engages the complex challenge of transforming a concept and sketch to the thrill and enormous undertaking of getting a design project constructed.

The studio works with ‘live projects’ - projects that are designed, constructed and presented to the public within the duration of the studio. The studio explores the complexity and creativity that goes into the collaborative development and the realization of a design project rather than putting sole emphasis on the novelty of the initial design concept. Each year’s studio unfolds live in relation to specific material limitations, budget, time plan, industry and exhibition partners, media outlets, etc. Emphasis is on linking architecture with industry as well as with technical research excellence. The studio typically establishes a partnership with a specific provider of material and a manufacturer in order to realize one or several chosen design projects. Students learn about current research relevant to the material and manufacturing process through readings, precedent studies and guest lectures. Ultimately, the studio aims to foster innovation through direct collaborations between students, teachers, architects, researchers, consultants and the manufacturing industry.



We are asked to contribute to the detailed design and production of an innovative timber pavilion in the Frihamnen area for Gothenburg’s 400th anniversary. This pavilion will be made from Birch Wood, having a free form, and utilize digital processes for the planning and manufacturing.

The project aims to demonstrate the potential of birch for innovative structure and raise the public awareness for the scalability of birch resource utilization. Sustainable utilization of alternative wood species is one of keys to broaden the capacity of the wood-working industry. Birch is one of such species which has been proven to be applicable for building structure. The structure will serve as a temporary roof/pavilion in Frihamnen, during Gothenburg’s 400th anniversary in 2023. The Frihamnen area is currently undergoing a major transformation from a former industrial site to a community building arena in the very center of the city. The picture below shows the location of the Frihamnen area.



The project aims to demonstrate a contemporary application of birch timber in an innovative and inspiring component based shell structure. The birch logs available in the Swedish forest stock are in much smaller dimensions compared to other ordinary timber for building structures with softwood. The unordinary dimension of the members will trigger a creative approach towards the roof/pavilion structure in the design of the joint system and the form of the whole structure and the way it is made up of smaller parts. The design concept will put a strong emphasis on parametric design and digital fabrication, and the Robot Lab facility of Chalmers will be the main arena for the fabrication work. The pictures to the upper left (fig 2.) show a provisional design  of the roof/pavilion produced by our partners (who are not architects). This year will start with us using this design for us to learn about digital design and production and then we get a chance to evolve this design for the final project and production



Birch (björk), which is a very common wood species in Sweden, is one of such an alternative hardwood species that is not typically used for large scale construction. At the moment, the most common application of birch is pulp, paper, firewood and furniture. Considering the annual growth in the forests, there is much potential for sustainable exploitation of birch resources in products of higher value. With the roof/pavilion we want to identify new construction types optimized for the specific conditions of birch wood and raise the public awareness of the potential by presenting inspirational examples of the application of birch.



The full scale realization of the prototypes and an adjoining exhibition was installed and exhibited at Chalmers Johanneberg campus in December. The studio also designs and produces a self-published catalog of the research and design outcomes as well as it produces a video of the overall undertaking..



Possible optional studio trip to University of Augsburg, Germany and visit to timber industries.



Key Dates:

19 Sept Intro

11 Oct Design Competition Review - Design for re-use (invited guests)

8 Nov Design Development Review (invited guests)


16 Dec exhibition opening (the last day when we have scheduled teaching/event when attendance is compulsory)

13 Jan Final submission

For a overview schedule use the following link: Material & Detail 2022 Schedule Rev A (Links to an external site)

For the full formal timetable use the following link: ARK338 M&D 2022 Timetable

Course literature

Please check out the ARK 338 Material & Detail Studio shelf in the library

Gail Peter Borden and Michael Meredith, eds., Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production (Oxon: Routledge, 2011)

Greg Lynn, “Robots”, in Greg Lynn FORM (New York: Rizzoli, 2008)

Andrew Atwood, “Monolithic Representations,” in Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production (Oxon: Routledge, 2012)

Gabriel Fries-Briggs et al “The Toolpath Problem: Compressing Representation and the Real,” in The Expanding Periphery and the Migrating Center, 103rd ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings, eds. Lola Sheppard and David Ruy (Washington D.C.: ACSA Press, 2015)

Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, “Intensive and Extensive” and “Geometry and Matter”, in Atlas of Novel Tectonics (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006)

Peter Testa, “Autonomous Translations,” in Fabrication and Fabrication (Los Angeles: SCI-Arc Press, 2014)

Course design

The studio teaching is divided into three distinct phases:

PHASE 1.      Design Competition - Design for re-use

The design competition brief is based a round the proposal for a Gothenburg 400 year jubilee exhibition pavilion prototype developed by 'Chalmers Jubilee Professor Chris Robeller and our collaborators at University of Augsburg. The design is development is based around the lightweight timber shell structure made from birch wood and produced using a saw blade mounted on our KUKA robot arm in combination with a cover of re-used ocean plastic materials. In teams we focus on a small design competition for the re-use of the current iteration of the design of the jubilee prototype pavilion as a kiosk by partial re-design and development. This is coupled with technology demos, precedent studies, text seminars and design research that targets a material and manufacturing process.

PHASE 2.       Design Development - Deep Interiority & Prototyping

The project in its current form is essentially a massing diagram that is in dire need of development in order to be produced, constructed and ultimately re-used. This presents you with this amazing opportunity to participate in a project that in all likelihood will be constructed as part of the Gothenburg 400 year jubilee.  The project to be developed can also be potentially combined with some of the ideas arising from the design competition. We are also getting introduced to the Production - setting up the robotic lab for both sawing and additive manufacturing, understanding the scripts to produce g-code, exploring printing alternatives etc.,  and Construction systems mapping - as applicable to additive manufacturing. Printing details as references and Key references of additive manufacturing research. Research papers, practices etc. 3D scanning of artefacts and output with 3d-printing. 

PHASE 3.       Production, Manufacturing, Assembly & Exhibition

Considering that this project is supposed to be constructed during the spring 2022 based on the work developed in the Material & Detail Studio, the primary challenge of this phase is to translate design information to instructions for manufacturing and construction or what we call production information that readies the material for procurement, manufacturing and assembly by others which is the form of representation that we as architects tend to be preoccupied with. The added complexity is that we aim to go directly from design to manufacture via sawing with our KUKA robotic arm and potentially using additive manufacturing processes using extruders on the robotic arm were we also have to prepare routines and a sequence for the manufacture and subsequent assembly. This process is to be simulated digitally in code, digital models and diagrams and drawings thereof before being 3D printed on the robots or on our in-house 3D printers before being prototyped in one or more large scale models manifesting the both the detail tectonic and the assembly in 1:5 tectonic mockup model displaying both details and utilizing the production process as devised by the team as well as a full scale mock up of part of the pavilion Finally, the studio culminates in the curation of a public exhibition of the studio outcome open to the general public.

PHASE 4.       Presentation, Documentation & Dissemination

The final development is a set of production documents including all relevant models and code, a video and a self-published booklet of the development work and the individual log/portfolio of your own journey though the course that should focus on the overall process and your individual contribution setting you apart from the different group constellations that you may have worked within which is essential from the final marking of the course work.


PHASE 1 includes software and fabrication demos, material studies and precedent studies. Design experiments and research of precedent projects are carried out in parallel.

PHASE 1 and 2 include weekly or bi-weekly pin-ups and tutorials as well as study visits and guest lectures from industry partners and researchers.

Work in PHASE 1 is mostly carried out in teams of 3 students, in PHASE 2 in teams of 6 students while work in PHASE 3 in teams of 12 students and PHASE 4 may require that all students in the studio work together on the booklet and video but otherwise it is based on the development of your individual portfolio. Due to COVID restrictions it is possible to collaborate remotely which we will bear in mind when we form the teams and we have altered the submission requirements to facilitate for this.

Our main tutorial day is on Tuesday when attendance is mandatory.

 Learning Activities

Please check the course ARK338 Material & Detail homepage on CANVAS on a regular basis to keep yourself updated on the course, events and activities. All official correspondence is via CANVAS.

Each PHASE has its own brief and assignment associated with it that is issued at the start of it.

The pedagogy of the studio with demos, experiments, demos, frequent team work on ‘live design projects’ (for a client) requires active participation and contribution from the start of the course to facilitate for the intended learning.

Teaching is to a large extent focused around desk design tutorials where feedback is continuously discussed with your team and hence attendance is critical to meet the learning objectives and outcomes of the course.

The learning activities are primarily focused on design project work.

Outside of the course specific timetabled hours, we expect attendance at the Chalmers Architectural Programs Public lecture series events that are scheduled on Wednesday afternoons between 16.00-17.00 as advertised.

If you are not able to complete the course as anticipated but have reached the 80% compulsory attendance, there are two new opportunities from complete to pass i.e. you can revise your submissions for a new assessment opportunity.


Changes made since the last occasion

New subject matter and the examination form has been articulated further.

Learning objectives and syllabus

Knowledge and understanding
Demonstrate an understanding of how the work in the studio relates to contemporary discourse around the relationship between architectural design and digital manufacturing technology.
Better predict the modifications that a design undergoes as it is translated from concept to realization through CNC manufacturing in incrementally larger scales.

Abilities and skills
Use the limitations and opportunities offered by a particular material and its associated digital manufacturing process as drivers of a design project.
Use digital design tools such as associative modeling to design, represent and produce a small-scale architectural project.
Use digital means of analysis and/or simulation such as ANSYS to inform aspects of structure, tectonics and detailing.-
Implement technical research excellence in a design project.

Ability of assessment and attitudes
Be able to make early assessments of design projects based on material specifics and manufacturing processes.

Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen.

Study plan (Links to an external site)

Examination form

Student work in PHASE 1 and 2 is presented, evaluated and assessed according to requirements stipulated in each respective assignment in design reviews with invited guest critics. Work in PHASE 1 and 2 is graded, while work in phase 3 is graded pass / no pass only. At the end of the course an individual design portfolio containing work from PHASE 1, 2, 3 and 4 highlighting ones own responsibilities, input and output is submitted and used for the final assessment and marking. A minimum of 80% attendance or participation in lectures, pin-ups, demos and visits is required in order to pass the course although a significantly higher attendance is required to benefit the most from the learning of the course.

The mandatory juried and assessed design reviews are on:

8 Nov Mid review and 6 Dec Final review

The final submission is on:

13 Jan Portfolio submission at 17.00 hours

Please ensure to contact your examiner if you are not able to attend the assessed events. If you were not able to pass the course you have the chance to complete work to pass and get a maximum of two new assessment opportunities.

Course summary:

Date Details Due