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The Sitterwerk Foundation is a founding member of the Material-Archiv association, an educational network for teaching, research, and practice. It regards materials as a basic element of creative work and brings together historical and current knowledge about materials with the aim of providing access for both specialists and laypeople to a broad spectrum of materials from a transdisciplinary perspective. Mediation takes place on the one hand by means of physical collections that present the materials as objects, and, on the other, via an online database that makes material knowledge generally accessible.

The multidisciplinary network is currently managed by ten educational and cultural institutions with focuses on architecture, art, design, restoration, conservation, and material technology. Each of them has a collection of material samples with a profile tailored to the respective institution. While the participating Gewerbemuseum (Museum of Applied Arts and Design) in Winterthur has a broad collection in terms of content and offers didactically prepared example applications, the Sitterwerk has holdings of material samples that are important in the production of art. The focuses of the collections of the art and architecture universities involved, in turn, are closely oriented toward the specific courses of studies and are regarded as a teaching tool.

The following eleven institutions are currently part of the Material-Archiv:
S1 Gewerbemuseum, Winterthur
S2 Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts—Technology & Architecture
S3 Sitterwerk Foundation
S4 Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)
S5 Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts—Design & Art
S6 Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich
S7 Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)
S8 University of the Arts, Bern (HKB)
S9 Schweizer Baumuster-Centrale (SBCZ)
S10 Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle
S11 Hochschule für Architektur, Bau und Geomatik (FHNW)

Collectively and in close exchange, these partners have developed a freely accessible online database in which information on around 1,300 materials can currently be accessed. From wood, synthetic materials, glass, and stone, to textile and animal materials, pigments, chalk and lime, ceramics and wax as well as new high-tech and recycled materials: each material is presented with pictures of details and applications, and fundamental aspects such as properties, forms of production, possible applications, and ways of processing, history, economy, and ecology. The texts are authorized by experts and edited by external editors, and continuously expanded, updated, and deepened. In the individual collections, RFID technology links these datasets directly with the material samples and example applications exhibited.

Relaunch Material-Archiv

Roughly ten years ago, the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur, the HSLU Technik & Architektur, the Sitterwerk, and the ZHdK launched the reference work

In mid-August this year, the platform of the Netzwerk Material-Archiv, to which five additional institutions meanwhile now belong—the HSLU Design & Kunst, the ETH Zurich, the ZHAW Winterthur, the HKB Bern, and the Schweizer Baumuster-Centrale—went online in a newly conceived form.

The re-launch project was realized over two years in cooperation with Astrom / Zimmer & Tereszkiewicz and celebrated and presented to the public on September 18, 2020, with the podium discussion “Material denken” (Thinking about Material). A filmic documentation of the event can be accessed here.

One important new aspect of the Material-Archiv database are the augmented options for linking the contents, which thus makes the references to the physical collections and their activities as well as applications more concrete and visible. Moreover, an important new level has been added with the “process” category, which will also be expanded continuously from now on. This will also include, for instance, projects at the Sitterwerk that deal with the topic of production processes and documentation of them, as currently in the exhibition HOWTO and contributions in the Journal.