The Cambridge, Massachusetts–based practice Matter Design, directed by Brandon Clifford and partners Jo Lobdell and Wes McGee, is rethinking what performance and sustainability mean in architecture.

“In the past few years the conversations we were having were falling outside of the conventional discipline of architecture,” Clifford said. “If you start to talk about sustainable building practices, it’s difficult to have that conversation, because the domain of architecture is restricted to the form and materials of the built artifact, but it’s not within our domain as architects to think about the sourcing of the materials, the transportation, the logistics of assembly, or the demolition of those buildings.

” Matter began to consider the life and afterlife of the materials it used from the beginning of the design process—and from an unexpected angle: “It became clear to us that we should start engaging this other side of practice, which has to do with performance, theatricality, and play as ways of interrogating why it is that we’re building the way that we do.”