The language of forms in art, architecture and product design is always shaped by the materials and processing techniques that are employed. Various developments have lent the tradition of material science an unforeseen topicality today. Accelerated digitalization has also reduced the range of work equipment used in design-related fields to the computer, software, screen and printer. At the same time, contemporary art has, however, rediscovered the semantic potential of materials. And a wide range of innovative developments in materials and substances makes it increasingly important that the characteristics of materials can be monitored directly.

In the Sitterwerk, a modern archive of materials and substances is being assembled. The Kunstgiesserei, among other locations, often experiments and works with various materials and techniques in order to realize special commissions. This has led to the compilation of a basis of a collection of material samples. These samples are centrally documented, systematically processed, rounded out and updated on a regular basis. Supported by professional management, the most recent developments as well as almost forgotten materials and processing techniques, which require great efforts to procure or reconstruct on one’s own, are made available.

The catalogue of this collection of materials and substances is being created in cooperation with four partner institutions. The online database MATERIAL ARCHIV encompasses not only the Sitterwerk’s collection of materials and substances but also those of the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur (Museum of Applied Arts and Design), the department of “Engineering & Architecture” of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the ETH Baubibliothek Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts. The MATERIAL ARCHIV at thus offers knowledgeable access to materials and material science for those in design-related professions. As a result of this cooperation with kindred institutions, the focuses on art production and historic monument conservation in the Sitterwerk find an ideal complement.

Thanks to digital information management, multi-dimensional classification structures are possible in archives today. This means that overlapping classifications are available simultaneously and open up various approaches to the collection, facilitating new combinations of materials and processing techniques based on associative methods.

As a repository of materials, experience and knowledge, the Material Archive, thanks to its connection with the Art Library in the Sitterwerk, will also be important for future generations in the restoration of cultural goods being created today.

The installation of the material archiv (2008-2010) has been generously supported by the Kulturförderung of the Canton of St.Gallen, Fachstelle Kultur of the City of St.Gallen, Stiftung zur Förderung der Denkmalpflege, Credit Suisse Foundation, UBS Kulturstiftung and Arnold Billwiller Stiftung.