Material Agency: Undulant

Evan Wermers
Thesis Mentor

Thesis / Spring 2018

This thesis engages materiality and design making.


‘Material Agency’ takes an approach to design that engages materiality through a process of inquiry for which design iterations should follow. Evan Wermers was able to respond to unpredictability while developing a readiness to embrace mistakes as possible beginnings. Discovery drove the initial forms comparatively to the formal syntax of ‘tailoring’ and ‘kerfing.’ Bending action became the explicit operation that allowed the material to shape space. Its variability enabled him to manipulate the position of its extremity, while methodically considering the systematic anatomy of the whole.

Building prototypes was an inherent part of the process that required iterations and intuition. Wermers made several mock-ups in small scale that explored different aggregations and assembly. He was interested in exploiting the most curvature within the entire system. Each once is different and contains an identity.

Wermers branded his project ‘Undulant’ after he photographed it with Tom Kessler and before he submitted the article to AIAS for publication. He felt that it needed a name that was more descriptive about the project and less about the research.

‘Undulant’ is one iteration that he wanted to explore in full-scale as a representation of his research project. It is composed of 10 vertical sections that encircle each other, including 5 modules respectively. Each vertical section not only displays variable curvature in each module, from a larger radius at the bottom to a smaller radius at the top, but also curves inward creating a cone-like shell structure.

The research is not merely a CNC fabricated assembly, but rather engages the ability for iterative authorship and syncing of the local module to offer incredible flexibility of the material and designer. The latent quality to this research isn’t always forthright, but offers tremendous potential for future explorations and proved to be a reliable source of insight and discovery.


  • Cunningham Bronze Medal Finalist
  • AIA Nebraska Architectural People's Choice Award for Emerging Architect Architectural Detail Awardee

Photo credit: Tom Kessler