Material Culture


The Material Culture Graduate Research Group builds on Buffalo and the Niagara Region’s legacy of material innovation, from infrastructural experiments in moving goods to slip-forming construction of concrete silos. 


  • the substance or thing from which something is or can be made
  • of matter, of substance; relating to or consisting of what occupies space
  • of the body or bodily needs; corporeal, sensual or sensuous


  • intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced
  • the products of human work and thought
  • the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively

The history of the city of Buffalo and the Niagara Region is indelibly tied to the history of material innovation. Buffalo has been at the forefront of material, architectural and technical explorations during the past century. These range from infrastructural experiments in moving goods and people by inventing a method of flow through the Erie Canal to conveyance systems and sea legs; and from slip-forming for the construction of concrete silos to Sullivan’s innovative steel frame construction and terra cotta cladding for the Guaranty Building, which contributed to the development of the high-rise building and the curtain wall.

Material Culture projects forward from this history through research that explores constructive sensibilities and critically investigates how our culture is deeply embedded in material artifacts.The group pursues its design inquiry through full-scale fabrication, assembly and installation; critical exploration of design and production; and study of the potential of materials. In these investigations, the conceptual premises of architecture are consistently tested through making.

Affiliated Faculty

Related Courses

  • Miguel Guitart
    Miguel Guitart, assistant professor of architecture, is an architect, author, and scholar who explores architectural experience at the intersection of material narratives and sensory perception, focusing on physical boundaries, material memory, and non-material agents.
  • Dennis Maher
    Clinical Assistant Professor - Department of Architecture
  • Georg Rafailidis
    Associate Professor - Department of Architecture - Hayes Hall 312 - (716) 829-5896
  • Christopher Romano
    Christopher Romano, assistant professor of architecture, explores the relationship between design, construction and the contemporary culture of building by leveraging regional manufacturing and material processes.