Martina Decker, an internationally renowned architect, who focuses on how new materials with novel properties might generate solutions to various contemporary challenges in sustainability and health and safety, has been appointed to the faculty of NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design as an assistant professor. She joins this fall more than 20 new NJIT faculty members, who will add momentum to NJIT’s strategic plan to make a major impact on the quality of life in the 21st century. This interdisciplinary initiative is focused on three vital areas: convergent life science and engineering, “digital everyware” — ubiquitous computing — and sustainable systems.
The women and men joining NJIT to serve a growing student body bring expertise that spans diverse supporting clusters. These include advanced manufacturing, architecture design and construction, big data, biochemistry, business systems, material science and engineering, and sensing and control.
“NJIT’s academic status and interdisciplinary strategy have attracted people at various stages of their careers, and who offer NJIT both distinctive abilities and new resources,” says Provost Ian Gatley. “Enthusiasm for NJIT’s interdisciplinary commitment was apparent during the search process. Everyone interviewed spoke about how the problems they work on are inherently interdisciplinary, how they like to work on teams, how they look forward to collaborating with colleagues across disciplines.”
Donald Sebastian, NJIT’s senior vice president for research and development, emphasizes that connecting with real-world issues is at the heart of expectations for a technological research university. “Academic disciplines are the core of the university and the framework for learning. However, their alignment with industries of the future is not as obvious as with those sectors that have prevailed over the last century. Our strategic research thrusts are designed to make those 21st-century connections explicit.” Convergent life science and engineering, digital everyware and sustainable systems — themes that transcend departments or colleges — shaped NJIT’s hiring plan, he adds.
In both her research and her architectural practice, Decker makes use of materials that are engineered at the molecular level, to change their size and shape, to store and release water, to repel water, to generate or conduct electricity, or, to change their color. She investigates their properties, discovers their capabilities, devises architectural applications for them, and fabricates prototypes that demonstrate their potential.
Her NYC-based practice, Decker Yeadon, recently became the first architecture research office to synthesize “buckypaper,” a thin sheet of carbon nanotubes, and she and her partner, Peter Yeadon, are researching a range of novel, high performance materials like this for future building projects.
Ms. Decker has worked on a wide range of award-winning projects that represent a penchant for interdisciplinary work, including: art installations, consumer products, and buildings. A selection of organizations that have exhibited her works include: The RISD Museum of Art (Providence), the Superfront LA gallery (Los Angeles), Southern Polytechnic State University, the Boston Society of Architects, AIA New York, ICFF (New York), El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, XV Pan-American Biennale (Quito, Ecuador), Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie (Parc de la Villette, Paris), and the UIA World Congress on Architecture (Istanbul).
Prior to her appointment at NJIT she was a visiting critic in the Architecture Department at Cornell University, and taught art and design students at the Rhode Island School of Design, as well as Parsons in Manhattan. She is a frequent guest critic at various academic institutions and has lectured at universities (including Columbia, Pratt, Temple RPI, and elsewhere) about how new materials might address contemporary problems by transforming the future of architecture. Decker completed her professional architecture degree at the University of Applied Sciences, in Munich and has worked in offices in Europe and North America before co-founding Decker Yeadon in 2006.
She recently contributed a chapter on biomimesis, smart materials, and nanomaterials to the upcoming book Performative Materials in Architecture and Design (Intellect, UK, 2012). She also recently completed a chapter on nanorobotic devices for the book Post-Sustainable: Blueprints for a Green Planet (Metropolis Books, US, 2012). Her work has been featured in a number of other books, including: Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production (Routledge, UK); Material Design (Birkhauser, Berlin); Smart Materials in Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design (Birkhauser, Berlin; and Subtle Technologies: Responsive Architectures (Riverside Architectural Press, Toronto).