Designing Material Innovation

Philippe Block and Matthias Kohler of ETH Zurich speak at CCA’s Designing Material Innovation Symposium.

Event Details


CCA Nave Presentation Space
1111 8th Street, San Francisco, California 94107 United States


October 27, 2017 5:00 pm - October 27, 2017 3:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)



The Designing Material Innovation symposium convenes leading figures from multiple fields related to the exhibition and its theme: how collaborations between architects and industry partners combine technological innovation in materials research and fabrication with aesthetic and ethical approaches to form and appearance.

The Designing Material Innovation exhibit highlights five full-scale architectural prototypes and pavilions that exemplify new approaches to material, fabrication, and design. Created through collaborations between architects and industry partners, these works combine technological innovation in materials research and fabrication, with aesthetic and ethical approaches to form and appearance.

Exhibition and Symposium Curator is Jonathan Massey, Dean and Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, formerly Head of Architecture at CCA.


Thursday 10/26
Evening keynote by Philippe Block, ETH Zürich, Block Research Group


Friday 10/27
Philippe Block, ETH Zürich, Block Research Group
Matthias Kohler, ETH Zürich, Gramazio Kohler Research & Professor of Architecture and Digital Fabrication
8:00am – 4:30pm


Philippe Block

Philippe Block is Associate Professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture at ETH Zurich, where he co-directs the Block Research Group (BRG) together with Dr. Tom Van Mele. He is director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Digital Fabrication, and founding partner of Ochsendorf DeJong & Block (ODB Engineering). Block studied architecture and structural engineering at the VUB, Belgium, and at MIT, where he earned his PhD in 2009. Research at the BRG focuses on equilibrium analysis, computational form finding, optimization and construction of curved surface structures, specializing in unreinforced masonry vaults and concrete shells. Within the NCCR, BRG researchers develop innovative structurally informed bespoke prefabrication strategies and novel construction paradigms employing digital and robotic fabrication. With BRG and ODB Engineering, Block applies his research into practice on the structural assessment of historic monuments and the design and engineering of novel compression structures.

Matthias Kohler

Matthias Kohler is Professor of Architecture and Digital Fabrication at the ETH Zurich Department of Architecture. Together with Fabio Gramazio, he founded the Architekturbüro Gramazio & Kohler Architekten in 2000. Since then, they have built a series of award-winning buildings. Current work includes the future NEST building at Empa. At ETH Zurich, they built the world’s first robot laboratory for non-standardized manufacturing processes in architecture in 2005, a completely new field of research. The research extends from construction projects such as the robot-faced brick façade for the Gantenbein Vineyard (2006), through exhibition installations such as Flight Assembled Architecture (2011). His latest publications include the Architectural Design Edition, Made by Robots (Wiley, 2014), and the first anthology on the use of the robot in architecture: The Robotic Touch – How Robots Change Architecture (Park Books, 2014). From 2014 to 2017, Matthias Kohler headed the new National Research Center (NFS) Digital Fabrication – Innovative Building Processes in Architecture, which is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Image: (Left) Gramazio and Kohler tile design for inner facade of the Federal Court in Bellinzona. (Right) Phillippe Block, MycoTree project, actualized in Seoul.