Objects of Research: Titanium Dioxide

The PhD and MA course “Objects of Research” explores chemical compound titanium dioxide (TiO2) as an extended object of research. How can this abstract material be approached from the fields of architecture and design? Can the material be understood as a system? What methods can be used to understand the material and what are the implications of various methodological approaches? In the course, students and PhD Fellows studied TiO2 by searching for archive material, by critically gathering technical information about the material, and by writing texts—focusing on historical, aesthetic or societal aspects of the material.

About titanium dioxide

The chemical compound titanium dioxide (TiO2) circulates extensively through our material, biological, and economic systems, most of the time completely unnoticeable: in the food we eat, the paper we print on, the paint on the wall, and our iPhone chargers. The inorganic substance is a white pigment that has been used in the mass-production of materials and goods since its discovery around 1910. TiO2 has been called “the whitest white” and its material properties are inextricably related to invisibility, durability, and surface.

TiO2 was developed and patented by Norwegian chemists Peder Farup and Gustav Jebsen, and production for the global market began in the mine Titania AS in Norway in 1916. After a hundred years of manufacture, the inorganic material has brightened our world. Yet, the extraction of TiO2 has left an irreversible change in the local landscape: the environmental trace of mining modernism consists of a vast cut through the surface of the earth and a white artificial desert of mining waste.

Once a signature of modernism, TiO2 has now become a signature of innovative materials and smart technologies. Architects, chemists, and building engineers progressively investigate the future prospects of the material as an essential component in renewable and alternative building technology. Today, TiO2 nanopraticles can produce smog-absorbing building surfaces, self-cleaning windows, and antimicrobial coatings for laboratory use.

Teachers: Ingrid Halland

Students: Jon Anders Fløistad – Modern Magic; Kersten Williams – Observed; Kjersti K Fretland – White Noise Pia Tveit – Hidden but Everywhere.