Coffee Hour: Marcus Shaffer "The Machine in an Architectural Context: Construction, Destruction, and the Culture of Miracles"

Friday, October 3, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

The Machine in an Architectural Context: Construction, Destruction, and the Culture of Miracles

About the talk

Architects have always designed and fabricated machines as means of realizing their visions. The architect/engineer/priests of ancient times used machines in building construction, to wage war, and “in service to the miracle.” Before them, poets of the Golden Age recorded dreams and stories of automated figures that performed or worked as magical proxies. From the mythical origins of Daedalus to Vitruvius’s de Architectura X: Machines; from Brunelleschi’s building/theater machineries to Le Corbusier’s revolutionary Machine for Living—Architecture’s relationship with the Machine has enriched its theories, built works, and vision. Today, architects have revitalized this relationship in an expansive design environment, pushing the machine beyond the realm of metaphor to reinsert actual machines into the cultural equation. A new generation of material/process researchers in schools of Architecture are developing technologies of design exploration, new means of empowerment through automated building devices, and digi-mechanical extensions of Architectural practice. Marcus Shaffer’s scholarship and research activities in the Stuckeman School are part of this revitalization—focusing on works, theories, and practices that engage the Machine as an architectural extension of our impulse to examine and re-make the natural world. The scope of his inquiry includes building machines, machines-as-buildings, automatons, and spiritual mechanisms; the mechano-pagan influence of the Machine on modern/visionary architecture; and the body/spirit dynamic embodied in tectonic machineries.


In his Ten Books of Architecture, the Roman architect Vitruvius suggests that architects pursue work through complimentary practices in theory and craft. At the Stuckeman School, Shaffer has developed a broad agenda for his research/work following this directive. The totality of this research work is defining The Machine in an Architectural Context, and while contributing to architecture’s critical discourse in this realm, his theoretical search is complemented and informed by the design and fabrication of various machines. His talk will present work from the past five years--constructing and testing architectural machines for building and performance.


About the speaker

Marcus ShafferMarcus Shaffer is an associate professor in the Department of Architecture at the Stuckeman School, and for the past two years he has also been a visiting professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. Marcus received his master's degree in Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2013, machine work by Shaffer and students in the Departments of Architecture, Dance, and Engineering was recognized nationally by the ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture) with a Creative Achievement Award (shared with Peter Aeschbacher). Shaffer is the author of two books; Rise Tectonic Machines! Construct the Exigent City! and Architecture Machines Volume 1: Exploring, Expanding, and Transmitting Building in the Machine Age. He currently divides his time between University Park, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; and Seoul, South Korea.



Angela Rogers