Charles Matz, A.I.A., R.I.B.A., C.I.D. Associate Professor
Department: Interior Design School: Architecture and Design Campus: Old Westbury
Member of NYIT Since: 2007
Traveling to one of the most remote plateaus in the world with hundreds of pounds of media equipment is all in a day's work for Charles Matz. The latest mission of NYIT's assistant professor of interior design is a geospatial mapping project in Harar, Ethiopia. The medieval city's historic center is a world heritage site designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Matz's 3-D land and architectural surveys, done with laser scanners akin to mirrored large-format digital cameras, are being used in the restoration of the five ancient gates ringing the fourth holiest city of Islam. The project, funded by an Institutional Support for Research and Creativity (ISRC) grant from NYIT, is in collaboration with Professor Ahimed Zekariah of Addis Ababa University (AAU) and the Independent Regional State of Harar and the Mayor's Office of Jugol.
"This kind of architectural and design research is essential, historically important field work in a dangerous, far flung place," says Matz. He is routinely accompanied by armed professionals, packs the scanners in shock-proof boxes, and travels overland and by bush plane to Harar, an area traversed by a myriad of ethnic tribes near the border of war-torn Somalia. The city is east of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
Matz and his six-person teamhis son, Bishara Abdul-Hamid, a former Marine; colleague Jonathan Michael Dillon, a graduate of Princeton University and The Cooper Union; and Ethiopian civil engineers from the Harar Regional State Office of Preservation and Managementare up before dawn to start a full day of scanning in the field. They process most of the captured imagery with robust laptops. The scans are abstract flashes of color and light at precise dimensions portraying the movement of people in the marketplaces at each gate.
"The scanned imagery shows the density of activity," says Matz, who teaches an interior design thesis course and design fundamentals II at NYIT, when not in the field. "This is something we've embraced in the project and very new to standard surveying."
Ethiopia is one of many countries where Matz has traveled for educational and research projects. He helped to produce the NYIT design booth at the Milan Furniture Fair in April and has coordinated summer abroad programs for the School of Architecture and Design to Lower Egypt and Nubia (2008 and 2010) and in the United Kingdom, Italy, and France (2011). He is preparing a summer program for 2013 in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and plans to bring students from NYIT's Middle East campuses into the fold.
Prior to NYIT, Matz worked for the late Michael Jackson as a producer, creative director, designer, and logistics expert, an experience he attributes as one of two big breaks. The other is his role as principal architect for the Princeton Club of New York, a position he has held for 15 years following his studio's succession plan. He is a registered architect, certified interior designer, and award-winning art director and film/TV producer with international clients such as Viacom, Disney, SONY, and the New York Stock Exchange.
Bridging the old and the new by applying the latest technologies to historic projects is informing yet another of Matz's ventures. He is working to integrate techniques for digital material manufacturing, such as the geospatial surveying done in Harar, into NYIT's curriculum.
"Laser scanning and burgeoning technologies of visualization are links of the virtual to the real, and in architecture as a discipline, this technology will figure greatly into the front end of future built environmentsthe what and how of construction components and their manufacture," Matz says. "It's an invaluable niche of practice for students flexing their creative and entrepreneurial muscles."