The Master’s in Advanced Architecture (MAA01) Digital Matter Research Studio introduces to students a material-responsive and circular architecture model, offering unique design possibilities for novel performances and dynamic metabolisms in the building industry.

Buildings are responsible for half of the global primary material consumption while they are accountable for nearly 40% of global climate emissions including two factors: embodied and operational carbon. Up until now, the focus has been the decrease of operational carbon as it was believed that it has a bigger overall impact, however, recent reports revealed that in new construction 50% of the total carbon footprint is produced before the building even begins to operate. This condition proposes a new challenge in relation to how and what resources we utilise to construct our built environment.

The Digital Matter studio challenges the current way we build and reframes the topics of resource depletion or insufficiency, processing an abundance mindset rather than acting from a place of scarcity. This is a new paradigm, especially relevant in the practices related to the design and production of the built environment, since it expands the definition of “resources” and where raw and non-raw materials can be found and “mined”. 

Rather than creating buildings that are static, consuming and contaminating, the Digital Matter Materializing Circular Design Agenda 2021/22 developed novel material, design and manufacturing solutions for adaptive buildings that are able to change state and shape, generate resources, minimise negative environmental impact and achieve complexity and high aesthetics through performances that resemble biological and natural organism’s operation.

The design studio researches the implementation of computed, active or zero emissions material systems coupled with responsive technologies for the creation of dynamic built spaces that respond, breathe, filter, biodegrade, or feed the soil and eventually change shape and state.

The aim is to develop design, material and manufacturing systems that close or limit material and resource loss, while having the potential to minimise waste, using it as a resource in itself.

Studio faculty: Areti Markoupoulou, David Andres Leon; faculty assistant: Nikol Kirova; and student assistant: Alexander Dommershausen.

Featured Projects


Globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created each year (Beall, 2020), with the fashion industry being responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions (IBRD, 2019). texTILE focuses on the problem of discarded polyester clothes and how to upcycle this waste while achieving material performance applied to an architectural building skin. A clothing management system has been developed to upcycle polyester. The process begins by labelling and categorising the garments based on the fabrication processes, such as melting, shredding, or cutting. The resulting polyester is then transformed into three layers of architectural components and assembled to match the needs of the primary skin of a building. The research challenges the traditional materials of construction, pointing out the potential of polyester waste as a sustainable material for design.

Students: Martín Andrés Gómez Martínez, Oscar Alberto Cortes – Landa, Brian Paul Woodtli Bahena, Gianmarco Paglierani

SURO//MYCO: Upcycling Waste to Build a Better Urban Soundscape

SURO//MYCO is an urban architectural intervention with the aim to make the collective urban spaces healthier and more peaceful. The production of agglomerated cork stoppers by local industry creates up to 50% waste in the form of cork granulate and imperfect cork stoppers. By combining this upcycled material with mycelium, an abundant natural binder, the project aims to create a variety of high performance acoustically absorbing panels which can adapt to different conditions throughout the city.

Students: Furio Magaraggia, Michael Joseph Groth, Miran Calmanovici

Bee-yond Anthropocene

Bee-yond Anthropocene strives to mitigate the impact of segregation of bees from the urban context of Barcelona and remedy their habitat loss through a temporal yet forceful insemination into the ecosystem, where beehives and melliferous flowers are placed on the street facades of existing green corridors and the ones near urban gardens. Using cellulose from the discarded paper, the project proposes a biodegradable, ephemeral and self-sufficient system that is designed to be discontinued once the equilibrium is reached and bees become a part of the urban fabric.

Students: Aleyna Gültekin, Arunima Kalra, Neha Jayanth Pattanshetti and Pragati Vasant Patilkulkarni

NETzero: A Performative Facade System Using Upcycled Fishing Nets

Circular economy encompasses challenging and rethinking the way we use and reuse resources in the building industry, and ultimately eliminate the concept of waste. The aim of NETzero project is to analyse the ability and adaptability of nylon nets and arrive at suitable applications for its use as a performative facade system. Harmful ghost fishing nets, discarded at sea, are manipulated with a technique called smocking. This results in a net with more depth and density that has good shading properties.

Students: Aishwarya Arun, Akshay Madapura, Aishwarya Shama Sunder Rajendra Prasad, Luca Wenzel

Are you interested in designing circular, sustainable and carbon-negative architecture?

Find out more about the Master in Advanced Architecture.