Visitors to the Materials Collection at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Frances Loeb Library will never be admonished to look without touching. In this tactile paradise, fingers—and imagination—are encouraged to roam free.

Tucked in a long, narrow room off the stacks, the collection consists of 600-plus physical material samples, often with multiple pieces per product. Bins, boxes, and bags fill shelves and drawers with objects of every texture, color, size, and shape. (View the full slideshow on the Library Portal.)

Created and cultivated to support research, teaching, and learning, the collection is available to help students and faculty re-envision possibilities in the constructed environment.

“You have these preconceived ideas of what concrete is,” said Johanna Kasubowski, design resources librarian. “We have samples of concrete as you’ve never thought of it—foamed concrete, flexible concrete. It really shatters the way you think about a building material.”

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