TU Munich


Material Exchange

The Material Exchange is a platform for research, exchange, and dissemination on cutting edge technologies and methods of material practice, dedicated to the questions of our lived environment.

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Why Steel?

No single material represents Modernism and modern construction as clearly as steel. A material of superlatives with other-worldly strength, able to accomplish what other materials could not, steel is to twentieth century architecture and engineering what the invention of concrete was to the Ancient Roman times. It allowed us to span distances with far smaller dimensions, with far more precision and intricacy, than was possible with the available material systems at the time. Unlike wood, masonry, and concrete which mainly worked in compression and thus through mass, steel seemed to be able to do a lot with very little. Steel’s durability, ductility, and workability into many forms, from cables and rebars to profiles and sheets, allowed it to be integrated into all stages of construction, often as a means to enhance the performance of other materials. Wherever we look, we see steel in action, from nuts and bolts to formworks and joints.  At the same time, its standardized formats predispose it for modular construction that can be easily disassembled and re-harvested.

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How can we harvest existing steel elements and modular systems for direct re-use and what means do we have to evaluate their performance? And if we do indeed have to build new, how can we plan more intelligently to allow for maintenance, repair, and disassembly? How would we need to design the joints and constructive logic to anticipate re-use?


Steel is very often embedded in other systems of construction, playing key roles in the transitions or joints between different materials. We see that already in timber and concrete. But how can steel allow us to rethink other construction materials such as clay or straw-bale? Can a hybrid system with steel allow us to build taller with materials that until now have been limited in their capacity? Can the use of steel joints allow us to radically optimize the use of other resources?


Whether as fixed scaffolding or as mobile systems, steel presents a logic of mechanical joints that suggests flexibility and adaptability. This goes beyond the final dismantling but towards a performative adaptation that recognizes changes over diurnal or seasonal patterns. How can steel allow us to better rethink our use of spaces, responding to changing needs and demands of the users? What can we do better with steel in these questions than with other materials?


The modular systems often associated with steel construction allows for fast construction times and efficient use of resources with prefabrication. As we consider the housing pressures facing our urban environments, how can steel provide answers to faster and more efficient project delivery and construction? At the same time, how can we overcome the challenges such as fire codes and thermal bridging that have hindered the use of steel?


Thursday, June 6
Friday, June 7



While entry is free-of-charge, admission is only possible with pre-registration. 

Tickets are not transferable.


Registration starts: 15.05.24


Register here


Location of event



School of Engineering and Design

Technical University of Munich


Arcisstraße 21
80333 Munich


Professorship of Architecture and Construction

Prof. Jeannette Kuo


Laura Brixel & Valentin Giorgio Martin