The mission is clear: our built environment must be fully circular and energy neutral by the year 2050. What does this mean for the materials we use? Which materials are circular and how are they best applied?

Initiatives like the material passport of Madaster and the urban mining initiative from New Horizon are becoming more frequent, and reusing materials is becoming increasingly important. Alongside the techno-cycle, materials in the bio-cycle are growing; building with wood and CLT is gaining in popularity, thermally modified wood is more like a rule than an exception and even bamboo constructions are possible nowadays. Aside from that, residual materials from the textile industry, agriculture and packaging materials are a source for new raw materials for insulation, a variety of finishing materials, and interior decoration. Aside from circular building, 3D printing with a variety of materials offers opportunities for efficient material use and faster production processes. The technical developments of glass such as constructive, curved and interactive features are a source of spectacular architecture. By combining nature with the newest technologies, it is possible to innovate architecture and to close the cycle of materials.

Our Architecture ambassadors

Ben van Berkel

Filippo Lodi

The sector architecture is represented by Ben van Berkel and Filippo Lodi of the architecture and design studio UNStudio.


Founded in 1988 by Van Berkel and Caroline Bos, UNStudio is an international architectural design network based in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Current projects include the design for Qatar’s Integrated Rail Network, the large-scale mixed-use project FOUR Frankfurt, and the headquarters of in Amsterdam.


With UNStudio, Van Berkel has realised the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Arnhem Central Station in the Netherlands, the Raffles City Hangzhou mixed-use development, the Canaletto tower in London, a private villa in upstate New York and the Singapore University of Technology and Design, amongst others.


Lodi holds several master’s degrees in engineering, architecture, art and business. As Head of Innovation and Knowledge Management, Lodi leads UNSKnowledge, UNStudio’s strategic research and development thinktank. He develops of disruptive technologies for the built environment from a unique coating that cools down buildings to forest-based biocomposites for facades and interior partitions – as well as providing consulting services to companies on their workflow and rebranding strategies.


In 2018, Van Berkel founded UNSense, an Arch Tech company that designs and integrates human-centric tech solutions for the built environment. It works very closely with UNStudio to develop new sensor-based technologies geared specifically for improving people’s health in the built environment.


Roof tiles

BorjaJet roof tiles combines traditional ceramic roof tiles with inkjet printing. Using this technology, Tejas Borja is able to make tiles with a wide variety of finishes such as slates, woods, stones, marbles and oxides. The technology, used for the first time on roof tiles, allows the advantages of classic ceramic roof tiles with the look of another material, without the need, for instance, to cut down trees or quarry stone.

Buton bubble concrete

Butong bubble concrete panels are made by pressing two form matrices together. How these matrices join inside the panel determine the filter effect of the panel. The panels have holes from both sides of the panel in a hexagonal pattern. Due to that the cells of the two sides of the matrix are joined, the panel will keep its uniform thickness. In its semi-hard condition, panels can easily be manipulated or cut into shape.


Wireglass is a project of Caroline Prisse and Marieke van den Heuvel, which resulted in various dynamic weaves integrated into glass. The metal textile weaves are made of stainless steel, copper and iron, and especially designed for this purpose. The metal, perforated sheets have been melted along with the glass.


Typha, commonly known as reed, cattail or bulrush, is a fast growing plant that flourishes in the watery areas of Friesland in the Netherlands. Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven is developing insulation suitable for cavity walls that meets the current building standards. The aim is to make the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as sustainable as possible. They strive for low CO2 emissions and low energy use, and avoid the use of harmful substances, by harvesting, producing and applying the value chain locally.


Lignoloc nails are made of beech wood and offer an sustainable alternative to metal nails or glue. Beech wood was especially chosen because its straight growth gives it the most homogenous cell structure. The nails are available in lengths up to 90 mm. It is possible to drive the nails in with a hammer, without pre-drilling, as the hardness of the wooden nails is comparable to aluminium ones, but Beck recommends using their special LignoLoc pneumatic nailer, which generates a large amount of heat by friction and welds the nail with the surrounding wood.


Special items

Several large exhibition pieces – often never shown to the public before – were exhibited during the trade fair, showing the visitor a glimpse of the future. What was shown?

3D-printed, reinforced beam

Deze 3D-geprinte, versterkte balk is onderdeel van een lopend onderzoek naar 3D-geprinte bouwcomponenten door het departement Digital Building Technologies aan de ETH Zurich. De tweezijdige uitkragende balken zijn tot 4,5 meter lang en gemaakt van zandsteen. De balken worden gefabriceerd door ‘binder-jetting’, een 3D-printtechniek waarbij poeder op bepaalde plaatsen wordt verbonden door bindmiddel om een object te creëren. De losse geprinte elementen worden met elkaar verbonden met speciaal ontworpen verbindingen, zodat de balk één geheel wordt.

3D-printed ceramic vault shading system

Hexashade, developed by Advanced Ceramics R&D Laboratory, proposes a 3D printed ceramic vault shading system focusing on the design and production of fully customised architectural ceramic components. Entirely conceived in digital environment, based on the discretisation of vault structures on hexagonal blocks, this system intends to control solar incidence by its adaptive inner structure. Using a computational model and weather data of the place, every block is adapted by its relative position in the set, making it more or less permeable depending on the space/time ratio that needs to be shaded.

3D-printed concrete construction elements

The construction element, designed at the Technical University Munich, was additively manufactured (AM) layer by layer using a selective binding technique, the so-called selective cement activation method. The solid was built by spreading layers of dry particles (a mix of cement and aggregate), which were locally bonded by an aqueous binder. In this case, expanded glass was used as aggregate. This object was produced to demonstrate the high geometric freedom in design and high resolution which can be achieved by this AM method. The dimension of the object is about (L x W x H) 570 mm x 300 mm x 390 mm with a layer height of 2 mm.

Speakers programme

Material Xperience is known for its high-profile speaker programme, which includes renowned (inter)national architects, scientists, designers and other experts.


Wednesday morning 14 March, the speaker programme “The Future of Architecture” took place in the Material Xperience theatre. Speakers were Ulrich Knaack (Professor Design of Construction at Delft University of Technology), Lisa Rammig (EOC London), Kasper Guldager Jensen(architect MAA), and Ana Maria Anton (ETH Zurich), amongst others.


Visit the programme page for more information.

Materials from the independent MaterialDistrict Collection

During this three-day event, MaterialDistrict showed the newest materials from its independet collection, which were scouted during year before the exhibition. A small selection of materials:

I-MESH (PLA1051)

I-MESH is a composite materials that filters, balances and diffuses light. The panels are custom made from yarn of, amongst others, carbon fibre, fibre glass, Zylon, Technora and basalt. It is sustainable, recyclable, noise-absorbing, insulating, non-combustible, and it guarantees energy saving.

Lumiscopic (PLA1102)

Lumiscopic is a dichroic foil that can be applied to materials such as glass, acrylic or plastic. The colou of the material depends on the viewing angle, varying from warm to cool colours.

ZEP solar cell roof tile (CER214)

The ZEP solar cell roof tile is a ceramic, traditional looking roof tile in which a solar collector has been integrated. from a distance, you can hardly see the solar cells, giving the roof a ‘normal’ look, while still generating green energy.