Soft Control Material: Environment and design c. 1970

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2 Scopus citations


This article explores the conception and development of Soft Control Material (SCM) (1968-1974) as a key case in the mutually inflected development of post-war design and the emergence of the concept of environment. Designed by Warren M. Brodey and Avery R. Johnson, SCM was a suite of interdependent technologies-high and low, digital and analog-comprising a sponge-like material made from foam and/or Freonfilled plastic bladders, special types of valves, and various articulated cladding surfaces. According to its inventors, SCM was not a finite object with a distinct form but was ultimately conceived of as a self-organizing, biomimetic metastructure (both tool and toy) for facilitating new types of human-environment communication; a 'medium' that might, in Brodey's words, 'provide instantaneous feedback and thereby allow infolding with time, memory, energy, [and] relation.' These, in turn, would effect for the subject a virtuous topology of environmental discovery, new types of ecological and 'interspecies' relationships and, ultimately, a conscious evolution of humanity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-156
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Design History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Cybernetics
  • Design
  • Design culture
  • Ecological design
  • Environmental design
  • History of technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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