For the past 11 years, Materials and Applications, a nonprofit creative space, has provided a platform for experimental architecture projects in their Silver Lake, Los Angeles front yard. Functioning as something between a garden gallery and a laboratory, the projects it produces in collaboration with artists and architects are studies of different materials, structures, technologies, and processes. Always visible from the street, these projects test the social elements of design by virtue of being built and showcased in the public eye, often with community engagement.
This aspect of the programming is central to the founders’ core vision, and has evolved into an integral part of their approach to collaboration and fabrication. As founder Jenna Didier says: “After mounting several projects, a core group of volunteers began to emerge and we realized that it is the people, not the program, of M&A that make it so unique.” She explained that they began to involve the community at the beginning of the design process through a series of concept and fabrication workshops, rather than just at the viewing stage, resulting in group-generated ideas and community-driven construction.
A recent exhibition at the California State University at Long Beach’s University Art Museum surveys these years of collaboration through documentation and models of 15 different projects, exploring the studio’s growth as an incubator and research center, and its social reach as a public art space and node for community engagement. The Cal State exhibition proposed the following organizing principles as subjects of exploration: Parametric Modeling, Responsive/Kinetic Environments, Resource Sensitivity, Craft, and Structural Experimentation.